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Two years ago, our relatively stable lives and structures were upended by the pandemic. We collectively went through incredible amounts of grief and pain, and we have had limited opportunities to process it all over the last two years.

As a result, all of that grief is locked up inside the offices, teams, and workplaces of every organization across the country, and maybe even around the world. That build-up of grief is leading to burnout, endless fatigue, loss of focus, and changes in employee engagement – all of which are negatively impacting companies and organizations. The Great Resignation, which took place throughout the pandemic, is a prime example.

Employees resigned in huge numbers over the last year as a result of burnout, endless stress, and the dramatic blurring of lines separating work and personal life. These factors caused many to deeply contemplate the values they want to maintain in their lives, and how they want to live and work moving forward.

​​Workplace culture played a crucial role in their choice to resign. Employees operating in toxic work environments, or in environments in which they felt uncared for contributed to larger numbers of employees resigning.

How many people have lost someone to COVID-19?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been over 5 million deaths so far worldwide due to COVID-19. With these deaths, we often forget about those who are left behind to grieve. To quantify just how many people are impacted – there are roughly nine close family members who are left to grieve following one COVID-19 death.

When we look at the US, there have been roughly ​​868,000 deaths due to COVID-19. This translates to 7,812,000 close family members who are grieving the death of a loved one – this does not include close friends and non-blood relatives. This figure also does not include those who are grieving the loss of celebrations and other forms of connection.

As of December 2021, there were approximately 157 million workers in the US. If we assume that all 7,812,000 people who are grieving are workers, that implies that 4.5% of all employees in the US have been grieving the loss of a close family member or loved one. As stated above, the lines between home and work are so blurred right now, that it is virtually impossible for this grief to not have an impact on productivity.

Toxic work environments are driving the Great Resignation

As of December 2020, total GDP in the US – the universally accepted measure of productivity – was $20.94 trillion. All else being equal, if 4.5% of workers have had their productivity compromised as a result of their grief, that means that up to $942 billion of productivity and business growth has been directly affected by grief.

Data published by MIT Sloan in January 2022 indicated that a toxic workplace was far and away – by nearly three times – a leading contributor to the Great Resignation. Every single day, millions of employees are working in these unhealthy and toxic work environments. Overlaid onto this are the aforementioned grief statistics. Millions of workers are grieving, while also managing the stressors that come from a toxic work environment.

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