Dealing with bereavement, grief and loss in a small business

08 May 2018

Grief and loss touches everyone at various times, and can have major workplace implications. When that workplace is a small business, those effects can be more intense. SuperFriend’s Managing Bereavement, Grief and Loss is a short, affordable, online learning program accessible to small business owners and their employees, helping to prepare for such unforeseen circumstances.

Within a small business, there are specific challenges around bereavement, grief and loss.


Plan for resource shortages

Whether a small business employs several people or is a single employee, it is inevitable unexpected crises will occur.

Flexible hours can be important when providing workplace support to an employee dealing with grief or loss. However, this can cause challenging operational issues. When this is the case for the business owner themselves, it can be even more difficult.

The University of Tasmania School of Management Health and Wellbeing Network’s Dr Angela Martin says it is very difficult for a small business owner to step away during times of grief or loss.

“Plan ahead for any human resource issues and think about how resilient your business is to the absence of a key member. Have a plan for psychological issues, rather than as a reaction to a crisis or a grief and loss process,” says Martin.


The grief of business loss

While we generally associate bereavement, grief and loss with death, there are other life experiences that create such reactions. One common to small business owners is their business closing down. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, just 40 per cent of small businesses survive beyond the first three years[1].

Research based on the Household Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) has shown a parallel between the grief associated with small business loss and that experienced by the death of a loved one or other difficult life changes[2]. It’s important to prepare for this possibility ahead of time.

“Small business owners need to know that business failure has reasonably high psychological effects. This can be like an inoculation against the stress of it,” says Martin.