Before 2020, most working professionals never had to consider colleagues passing away. It was an incredibly rare event. But thanks to the pandemic, it has become more common. Senior workers have been particularly at risk. 

Knowing how to manage the sudden death of a co-worker is a major challenge. Losing somebody from the team without warning causes both business and personal disruptions that can reverberate throughout the entire company. It’s necessary, therefore, to find ways to manage these events so that your firm can remain more productive, no matter what happens. 

Give People Space

When people suffer the loss of a co-worker, they need space to grieve. Contrary to popular opinion, most people deal with death best when left alone. 

As an employer, you need to take a step back. While you may want to continue marching onwards and upwards, grieving employees probably don’t. Instead, they want to spend time reflecting on what’s happened.

Trying to force people to work through grief usually backfires. They view you as insensitive (which can harm morale), and they can struggle to concentrate. 

However, you can still make work available. Some people will gladly return to the office as a distraction from otherwise challenging emotions. 

Connect With The Family

If somebody in the office suddenly dies, it’s a good idea to connect with the family. Some company bosses will actually invite the family to come and spend time with co-workers so that everyone can meet each other. Having this time together isn’t the same as going to burials, but it can make managing the process significantly easier. 

Don’t Judge Employees By Their Reactions

When a co-worker dies, colleagues who were closest to them might appear unaffected, while those who hardly knew them may be unable to contain their tears. A mixture of reactions like this might seem a little strange at first, but it’s actually expected. 

The range of personalities in your office is probably quite large – particularly if you hire more than 100 people. Some will feel numb after hearing about the death of a co-worker, while others will be overcome with emotion. 

Generally, there is no way to predict how people will react in advance. However, your job is to remain judgement-free. Allow people to express their grief in the way that they see fit. 

Grieve Alongside Employees

Just because you’re the boss, doesn’t mean that you have to ignore the grieving process entirely. In fact, showing your true emotions can actually bring you closer to your employees. A lost person is still a tragedy, regardless of their position in the firm. 

Announce It Publicly

Whether you have five employees, or five hundred, it’s a good idea to announce what’s happened publicly. Gather everyone together and explain the situation, detailing what has happened. Then, once you finish speaking, provide directions for people deeply upset about the event. Perhaps allow people who feel the need to visit the counsellor (if you have one) or take the rest of the day off from their usual duties.