There is a certain clarity that comes from life experiences that change who you are. Experiences you know will leave you different and creating a new normal for yourself and your family. Time often muddies that clarity and if we don’t act quickly to apply the lessons learned to every area of our life we forget it’s impact. I applaud Sheryl Sandberg and the entire Facebook team for not only applying lessons learned from major life experiences to their personal lives, but for applying them to policies at Facebook as well. One such policy is their a new bereavement policy. One I’m sure was influenced, at least on some part, after the sudden death of Sandberg’s husband.
I believe these types of policies are where companies put their money where their mouth is. These are the policies that allow us to see if all that culture and engagement talk are just words. Leaders know what to say these days. They know what employees are looking for and often say the right things. Policies like these are where you really see if they mean it or not.
The standard bereavement leave policy is three days. Three days to mourn the loss of someone immensely close to you. Three days to mourn the person who raised you, shared your life with you or who used to call you mom. Three days to say goodbye to the people who you are closer to than anyone else in the world. I realize many businesses allow employees to take more time off but they either use vacation/sick time or go unpaid for those extra days.
And that is where the message gets confusing.
“Your loved one is important to us, but only for three days. After that, you have to figure it out.” Or “We only think you need three days to get over this.” Regardless of whether the company allows the employee to take more than the three days, three days is what the employee will feel the company thinks is appropriate.
And if you have lost a parent, or a child, or a spouse, you know, three days is not enough.
I will admit I am a little raw regarding this topic. I just lost my mother and can’t imagine feeling the pressure to return to work after three days. I live far from my parents and need a full day just to get to them. I would have never been able to handle the stress of going through this trauma with the added pressure of getting back to work.
Further, I know there are going to be times in the coming weeks when I, for lack of better words, have a day. Where what has happened hits me like a ton of bricks and I am unable to put any work in. It’s going to hit my son, father and sister too and they may need me to step away from work and help them through. I know that I will be able to take that time without fear of repercussion.
This should be a simple one folks. This is one of those no-brainer policies that I think we have all just accepted for so long the way it is. Why can’t businesses offer more than 3 days? I don’t know that 20 is the right number for everyone, it certainly was for Facebook, but 3 seems perfunctory.
Of course it isn’t as simple as just changing the policy. This article highlights some important components of the Facebook policy and the culture they have created which support a policy like this.
While I’m not encouraging businesses to implement policies like this without thought and measure, I do think it’s necessary that businesses of all sizes begin to look at policies like this and see if the words they tell their employees align with the policies they hold them accountable to. We proclaim more human workplaces, but often work against ourselves in actually providing them. This policy, often forgotten until needed, is a great place to be a little more human and show employees how much we care about their personal lives and their ability to navigate the balance properly.