The Grief Recovery Institute conducted a landmark study of the “hidden” annual costs of grief in the workplace in 2003. The findings were quite astonishing. The major causes of employee grief in order of severity are: death of a loved one, divorce, family crisis, financial loss, death of extended family or friends, major lifestyle alteration, loss of a pet, finally all other causes. “Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to the change or end in any familiar pattern of behavior. Within those normal reactions exists the possibility of the entire range of human emotions.
Traditional thinking in the workplace is that financial stress is the major cause of grief and stress. However, death of a loved one is by far the greatest issue for employees. All other causes above are far behind in their cost to employers. The total annual cost of employee grief to US employers was $75 billion in 2003 and death of a loved one accounted for $37.6 billion alone. It is more than double the cost of all the other causes of grief combined! When adjusted to 2017 dollars, death of a loved one taxes employers more from $75-$100 billion annually. In fact, the costs of grief are often hidden under the statistics. For example, the Council on Alcoholism estimates that alcohol abuse contributes annual costs to industry in excess of $276 billion. What that statistic omits is the fact that the vast majority of alcohol relapses occur as the direct result of the death of a loved one or a divorce or other romantic break-up. So the cost of losing a loved one likely far exceeds $100 billion per year.
85% of management level decision makers indicate that their decision making ranked from Very Poor to Fair in the weeks or months following the grief incident that affected them. 60% of those responding Fair, Poor or Very Poor, indicate that some of their decisions definitely had direct negative financial impact on their company.
The affect of the grief incident are even much greater among employees with a physical job. 90% of those in physical jobs [i.e. not white collar] indicate a much higher incidence of physical injuries due to reduced concentration in the weeks or months following the grief incident [Compared to their ability to concentrate prior to the major loss.] 91% indicate that the accident or injury could have been avoided if they were better able to concentrate. This will translate into more workplace injuries and thus higher workers’ compensation premiums and settlements, further hurting the company bottom line and the employees, physically.
To a great degree the costs are unnecessary and avoidable. They could be substantially mitigated by heightened awareness and some simple, practical shifts in communication. The reduced cost of grief can be accomplished without great expense. Giving employees tools to plan ahead so that they can deal with their grief more effectively can greatly reduce the effects of their grief. As Human Resource Technology(HRTech) startups develop solutions for employers, it will be incumbent for HR managers to stay abreast of the evolving landscape and select those technologies that can ease the grief for their employees and also help the company’s bottom line.