Losing a loved person is an incisive experience. You feel left alone, it hurts inside and it takes a lot of energy to cope with everyday life. We all need time to grieve, to process what we have experienced and how long it takes is very individual. But, what do organizations do when losing a dear colleague, a friend, someone that you saw and worked with every single day? How can the organization make sure that there is enough room for the grieving process, and at the same time, move on with the daily business?
In the past twelve months, we at Ladenzeile have lost two dear colleagues, who we miss every single day. Today, we would like to share with you what we have learned about processing this sad experience.
Written by: Saskia Weigand, Director of People, Culture & Organization at Ladenzeile
1. Transparent communication
The news of a bereavement can come through very different channels, whether through a connected employee or the bereaved themselves. The most important thing at this stage is to communicate the news out quickly to the organization, to pick everyone up and offer support.
At Ladenzeile, we chose the format of hosting an extraordinary All-hands meeting, where we could share the news and offer support for all our employees. A minute of silence gave everyone the chance to dedicate their thoughts to the deceased and take in the news. It may also be necessary to allow employees flexibility in terms of working on the day of the message. It surely depends on the size of the company and the connection among people, but for sure many people will be moved. For some it comes as a shock, so proceeding business as usual is often not useful in these cases.
2. Caring support for employees
In challenging times of loss, people need a way to express their feelings. But each of us deals and processes grief differently, so it’s important to offer a variety of options when it comes to support.
We implemented a wall of memory in our office, as a place where employees can record their thoughts and write memories on cards to commemorate and mourn the person together. For individual support, contact persons should be available for everyone in the company. Here, supervisors and the HR department are ideal for sharing a sympathetic ear with those who wish to express their emotions. Accompanying people who are grieving is a challenge for many, however; we often find it difficult to deal with grief and tears, so the people accompanying them also need guidelines on how to act. For employees who find it challenging to share their feelings within the company, an external contact can be offered. Crisis services are also good places to start here.
3. Caring support for the bereaved
As companies, we also have a responsibility, not only towards our employees, but also towards the families of the deceased. The loss of a family member is not only emotionally challenging, but in many cases also financially difficult. Trying to get in touch with the bereaved, finding out what support they need and wish for, and acting on that, is a good way to show care to the family. In many cases, employees also want to support: starting donations for the family can give people the feeling that they can contribute with something useful and gives them the opportunity to show appreciation towards the deceased. As a company, you can also share information about when the funeral takes place, given the case that the family agrees.
We also sent the memory cards to the family after a few weeks, so the families could read what the employees remembered about their loved one.
At Ladenzeile, we actively chose not to share our losses externally, neither on our website nor on social media channels. Even if not intentional, it seems wrong to us to expose such devastating news to the outside world. The decision of with whom and at what time the bereaved are willing to share this intimate event should be their decision alone.
We hope that readers of this article will never find themselves in the situation of having to use our experience during such an event in the company, but if they do, we hope that we were able to make a contribution.
In loving memory of Britta and Sergio. You are missed dearly.
Saskia is our Director of People, Culture and Organization, where she’s responsible for the entire spectrum of HR work and supports the agile transformation of the company:
“Helping people find their own professional path and meaning in their daily work gives me satisfaction and motivates me to start my own working day every day.“
– Saskia Weigand