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[AT A LOSS] Costs of death tallied

Empathy, a platform that helps families navigate the journey they face after the loss of a family member or friend, recently released its 2023 annual report, The Cost of Dying. The report offers insights into the costs of a death in the family in the US today, with a special focus on its impact on employees' sense of well-being in the workplace. The report includes key findings on the financial, logistical, and emotional impact loss has on bereaved families, as well as reflections from a dozen experts in the end-of-life space.

Ninety-three percent of people who have experienced loss report at least one physical or mental symptom. For a majority, these symptoms last for a period of several months or more, and are often intertwined with and exacerbated by the stress of wrapping up the deceased's affairs. This physical and mental strain is felt particularly acutely in the workplace, according to the report, and balancing the burden of grief with a 9-to-5 job unsurprisingly impacts employees' careers.

Most (92%) of affected employees either take time off work or adjust their work commitments to deal with the loss of a loved one, while 76% of bereaved employees' overall performance at work was harmed.

Employers have a unique responsibility to support employees in defusing stress, handling bereavement-related logistics, and bolstering overall well-being, according to the report. Making holistic bereavement support a core component of a company's HR strategy is a win-win for employers and employees alike.

 Other findings include:

  • It takes an average of 12.5 months to resolve all financial matters after a loss, and the bereaved spend a median of 12 hours per week on these tasks.
  • The average total expense for handling financial matters is $4,384, including accountants' fees and paying off bills, while the average family spent $4,967 on legal matters.
  • Bereavement leave policies typically give employees 1-5 days off, based on the expected timeframe for planning a funeral, but 67% of employees took more time off than the number of days they spent planning the funeral — suggesting that bereavement leave is largely insufficient.

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