The average company offers three days of bereavement leave. Three days. Now, this is probably fine if it's your 95-year-old grandmother whose funeral will be in the same town where you live and someone else is taking care of all the details and you weren't that close anyway. For other situations? Three days is nowhere near sufficient to even do what you need to do, let alone mourn.
Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who lost her her husband unexpectedly in 2015, announced that Facebook would be changing their already above average bereavement leave policy of 10 days to 20 for immediate family member and 10 for extended family members.
While many companies, especially small businesses, don't have the funds to give paid time off for that long, every company should look to increase their bereavement policy. While your business is all about earning money, and you can't do that if people aren't working, granting this time off benefits not only your employees but your business. Here's why.
How Productive Can You Be in Mourning?
There isn't a standard formula for how long you'll mourn. Each situation is different, but psychotherapist Martha Clark Scala writes:
You may start to feel better in three months, but don't be surprised if you're still miserable, at least some of the time, several months to several years after your loss. The average length of time it takes most people to consistently feel better is about a year.
If it takes the average person a year to feel better after a devastating loss, just what are they going to contribute to your business three days after a spouse, child, or parent dies?
While a year off is impractical (and may impede the grieving process), people need some time.
Even Without Grieving, There's So Much to Do
When my grandmother died, she had been in a nursing home for years, and her house had already been sold and her belongings distributed to relatives. Her cemetery plot had been purchased years earlier, and everything planned. Still, there was a tremendous amount of paperwork, funeral organizing, and just plain work. But what about someone like Sandberg's husband, technology executive Dave Goldberg, who died unexpectedly? We don't expect our 40-something spouses to die or our teens to be killed in a car accident, but both things happen.
With no advanced warning, nothing is prepared. People need time to get all this stuff done. Regardless of your projects and meetings, this will be their priority. It's better to acknowledge that and let your employee have time off so they can focus on what needs to be done.
Your Other Employees Are Watching
Death is inevitable. When an employee's family member dies, all the other employees are watching how you help that employee. Are you calling at the funeral to see if the report is done, or do you grant as much time off as possible, paid, if possible, send flowers, and a dinner? The former might get that project done, but it will sour the relationship not only between you and your grieving employee but between you and your entire staff.
Employees don't quit jobs, they quit bosses. If your employees see you bending over backward to help someone who is grieving, everyone sees that. They know you care and are confident they'll be treated the same should the unspeakable happen them. If, on the other hand, they watch you be a jerk, they'll look to leave as soon as possible.
Does It Have to Be Paid Leave?
Facebook has big money and can afford to give long paid bereavement leaves. Can your business? Maybe, but even if you can't offer paid leave, do offer unpaid leave. Let people have time to grieve and time to do what needs to be done. Consider offering flexible leave as well--it doesn't have to be all at once. Just do the right thing, whatever that is for this employee.