Your employees are your company’s lifeblood. You invest time and resources into developing a strong team, so it’s only natural that an employee’s death can significantly impact your business. For one, losing a valued team member can be emotionally devastating. The death of an employee can also disrupt workflows, create morale issues and even jeopardize client relationships.
During the pandemic, many companies faced the unexpected death of employees, colleagues, and friends. WHO estimates that between January 2020 and May 2021, 80,000 to 180,000 essential workers may have died from COVID-19. This number does not include the non-essential employees who succumbed to the virus.
No matter the cause of death, losing an employee is always a difficult time for a company. Having a plan in place is essential so you can handle the situation with sensitivity and respect.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with an employee’s unexpected death:
Inform Other Employees as Soon as Possible
Your employees will likely find out about their colleague’s death through the grapevine. Prevent rumors from spreading by informing your team as soon as possible. Send an email or company-wide memo announcing the death and asking everyone to respect the grieving family’s privacy.
You can also hold a meeting to share the news and answer employees’ questions. If the death was caused by a natural disaster or pandemic, assure the team that you are taking steps to protect their health and safety. This could mean increasing cleaning efforts, providing PPE, or allowing employees to work remotely.
Consider the Impact on Workflow
The death of an employee can have a ripple effect on your business. Take the time to assess how the loss will impact your workflows and make necessary adjustments.
For example, if the deceased was a key player on a project, you may need to reassign their tasks to other employees. This could be an excellent opportunity to cross-train your team and build redundancy into your processes. In some cases, it may be necessary to bring in a temporary worker or contractor to help fill the gap. This is particularly common in businesses that can’t afford empty positions, such as hospitals or manufacturing plants.
Suppose the death was due to a natural disaster or pandemic. In that case, you may need to shut down operations for some time. This will give your team time to grieve and allow you to assess any damage to your facilities. In some cases, it may be necessary to relocate your business temporarily.
Support Grieving Employees
The death of a colleague can be traumatic, even if the two of you weren’t close. Many people will need time to grieve and may have difficulty concentrating on work. Be understanding and give your employees the time they need to process the loss.
If an employee requests time off, do your best to accommodate them. You can also allow employees to work from home or take a leave of absence if needed.
In addition, you should make sure your employees have access to grief counseling or other support services. If your company doesn’t offer these services, many free resources are available online.
Address Client Concerns
If the deceased worked closely with clients, you should contact them as soon as possible to update them on the situation. Be honest and what this means for your business. Most of the time, clients are more considerate than you think and will be understanding of the situation.
Simply letting them know of the devastating news is not enough. After all, business has to go on. Make a plan to ensure their needs will still be met.
For example, you may need to reassign their account to another team member or temporarily suspend service. Give your clients the reassurance that you will still take care of their needs despite the loss your company has suffered.
Don’t Forget About Your Deceased Employee’s Family or Next of Kin
It’s important to remember that your employee was more than just a worker – they were also a husband, wife, son, daughter, or parent. This is why your company should do everything possible to support the family during this difficult time.
For instance, you can offer financial assistance to their family or next of kin to lessen the burden of funeral costs. You can also set up a memorial fund in your employee’s name to help with any expenses related to their death. You can also consider offering ongoing support to the family by providing grief counseling or other services.
Aside from the financial assistance, consider sending their family a sympathy card or gift basket. This is a small gesture that can mean a lot to someone who is grieving. Dessert baskets for sympathy are a thoughtful way to show your support during this difficult time. Choose a provider that sells fresh pastry and can deliver these dessert baskets in insulated packing to ensure they arrive fresh and delicious.
The death of an employee is a challenging experience for any business. As the employer, you are responsible for supporting your employees and the loved ones of your deceased staff through this tough time. By offering grief counseling, financial assistance, and other forms of support, you can show them that you care and are there for them during this difficult time.