Respect employee privacy — While you may offer group discussion sessions to deal with employee grief, there are many employees who prefer to grieve in private. Therefore, respect that there may be a few closed doors and subdued communication. On the other hand, some employees might return to their desk and work their heart out; leave them alone to grieve in their own way.
Show respect for the family — Be in contact with the family immediately. Send a note and/or flowers as is appropriate. Work with them to determine how they would like the employer to be involved in ceremonies and celebrations. Provide support and help make connections. Send representatives to attend services. Assist with any clarifications of company benefits and entitlements. Offer to forward personal belongings rather than leaving this task to the family.
Honour the individual during the workweek — Design an appropriate memorial activity. One example is to keep the individual’s office door shut for one week, tape a large sheet of white paper on it and invite colleagues to write their thoughts. Paste photos of past celebrations and/or add a memento of some sort. Help the employees to share their grief. Celebrate the individual’s contributions.
Create a family memorial gift book — There are many activities at work to which families have not been privy. Take some of your best photos and/or other memories from work and create a family memorial book. Give the book as a gift to the family. While they may not review it upon receipt, they will very much appreciate it at a later date.
Raise money for a cause — Look for a simple way to raise money in your colleague’s name. Dedicate the money raised to the colleague’s favourite charity or to the charity that the organization has supported over time. Start a scholarship, a fund or dedicate an event in the colleague’s name. Be sure to involve the family.
Put future communications in place — Some families wish to keep in touch with the former employee’s workplace. For instance, they want to see the results of their loved one’s project coming to fruition or they may want to be included on the company newsletter list. On the other hand, many families are not able to handle this type of relationship. Inquire and make arrangements to meet your family’s need.
Managing a death in the workplace is awkward for everyone. Develop a plan and apply sensitivity and good judgment.