When someone passes away, it isn’t just close friends and family who are affected – in many cases, the individual’s colleagues will also mourn their loss. Not everyone at the office can claim to be friends with that person outside of work, but most companies have a connected network of employees. When one passes, many will likely feel the need to honor their peer in some way.
Still, employers face a question of tact and respect when dealing with the death of an employee. They will want to memorialize that individual but they won’t want to intrude on the family’s privacy or compromise productivity. How should an organization honor its former employees? With Labor Day around the corner, we’ll look at a few respectful, elegant ways to do so.
Start a Donation Fund
One of the benefits of an office is that when everyone chips in a little bit, a memorial or donation fund can grow very quickly. While families in grieving may not ask for money, financial contributions can help them cover the cost of a cremation or funeral ceremony – though cremations are generally affordable, these contributions can still be helpful. Additionally, the family will often request donations to charity in lieu of flowers or gifts.
Think of how much an entire company of, say, 200 people can raise if each coworker puts in only a few dollars. In the wake of a tragedy, people often come together. By taking advantage of that mindset, employers can make meaningful financial contributions to the family or charity of their choice.
Find Space for a Memorial
An office memorial shouldn’t be over-the-top, but there are ways to honor an employee’s impact in the workplace and in his or her personal life without being dramatic. Maybe in the common area there is space for a few images or a book of memories – or perhaps that space exists online, where you dedicate a company webpage to a departed employee. Consider renaming one of the meeting rooms or another section of the office after that employee to keep his or her presence alive.
When making these arrangements, be sure to get permission from the deceased’s family. The goal is to memorialize their loved one with dignity and respect. If the family would rather not participate in such acts, it is the employer’s responsibility to follow their wishes.
Provide Support for Other Employees
When an employee passes, employers must be willing and able to help those close to that individual cope with the loss. It isn’t easy to continue working as usual when a member of the team is gone – employers should allow time off for grieving, HC Online notes.
Additionally, some employees can benefit from counseling or group therapy while they mourn. Balancing emotional stress with productivity is a slippery slope that, if managed poorly, could lead coworkers to lose motivation or even resent their employers. Instead, providing active assistance for employees under stress will allow them to carry on with their jobs and manage their grief effectively.
There are a number of logistical arrangements employers should also be aware of, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, especially with regard to benefactors, insurance policies and retirement funds. Employers should stay on top of all of these finer details while they negotiate a respectful way to honor their fallen employee.