When a staff member dies

If someone from your own organisation dies, the information and guidance from the previous sections very much applies and must be given utmost consideration, as the impact on yourself and the rest of your organisation is impossible to predict, and could leave everyone feeling somewhat ‘at sea’.

Things to have in mind:

Ascertain the family’s wishes

  • How do they wish information about the person’s death to be shared?

  • What are their wishes regarding people from the organisation posting information publicly e.g. on social media?

  • What are their wishes regarding people from the workplace attending the funeral or other events?

  • What would they like to happen with the person’s belongings?

  • Run any ideas for workplace commemorations past the family, particularly if there is a public element to them

Ensure all practicalities are dealt with as quickly and discretely as possible so as to minimise potential distress e.g. outstanding salary payments are paid, email and phone accounts are redirected and deactivated. If the person’s photo appears on your website, consider whether this will be moved into a different section as a commemoration or removed from the site. 

Ensure your team are supported and that their needs are discussed – refer to the previous section about supporting a bereaved employee. Also refer to the section on how to look after yourself - your grief matters too. 

Be aware that some people within the workplace may experience a misplaced sense of guilt for things they said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. This is common. Some people may be further impacted if they feel they didn’t get a chance, for whatever reason, to say a proper goodbye to the person. This is another reason why opportunities for collective commemoration are so important. 

Make clear to staff that, whilst there may be necessary timeframes placed on things such as recruiting a new staff member, this in no way means there is a set timeframe for them to grieve.   

Ask the colleagues who were closest to the person if they would like to lead on organising the collective commemoration efforts. Discuss with them other important dates to be aware of and plan ahead for – birthdays, anniversaries etc. Again, make sure these dates are acknowledged openly within the workplace and opportunities given for people to mark these days in a meaningful way.

Creative ideas for collective remembering can be found on the ‘To Absent Friends’ festival website, please find the link below.

Remember that it may be helpful to revisit some of these ideas on other important dates and to plan ahead for these – mark them in your workplace calendar

Links for more information

To Absent Friends