by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.
Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness
The death of an employee can be an overwhelming experience for any workplace, impacting the emotional well-being of staff and productivity. Organizations must prioritize the emotional wellness of their employees during such challenging times, ensuring their grief is acknowledged and supported. Utilizing evidence-based strategies, we can create a supportive environment that promotes healing and emotional wellness.
First, open and honest communication plays a vital role in fostering emotional wellness. Leaders should create a safe space for employees to share their thoughts and feelings, encouraging open dialogue about their grief experience. This fosters a sense of belonging and support within the workplace (Moriarty & Korschun, 2017). Regular team meetings or moments of reflection can provide opportunities for employees to express their feelings and share memories or stories about the deceased colleague.
In addition to communication, providing access to counseling or grief support groups can significantly contribute to the emotional well-being of employees. Offering resources such as grief counselors or employee assistance programs allows individuals to seek professional help in coping with their grief (Kruse et al., 2021). It is important to create a supportive workplace culture that normalizes seeking help and encourages employees to make use of these services.
Encouraging self-care is another essential strategy for fostering emotional wellness. Grief can consume individuals, making it imperative for employees to take care of themselves during such difficult times. Employers can encourage activities such as physical exercise, relaxation techniques, or meditation, as they have been shown to relieve stress and improve emotional well-being (Hall et al., 2015). Providing flexible work schedules or additional time off can also allow employees to prioritize their mental health needs.
Sharing practical information from The National Center for Emotional Wellness can be helpful. And utilizing and implementing Acute Traumatic Stress Management (Lerner and Shelton, 2005) can be invaluable.
Finally, organizing commemorative events can offer closure and promote healing in the workplace. Memory boards, memorial services, or moments of silence can provide opportunities for colleagues to come together, share their feelings, and honor the legacy of the departed employee (Embery et al., 2020). These events not only facilitate the grieving process but also reinforce a sense of community and support.
Fostering emotional wellness after the death of an employee requires a compassionate and supportive approach. Open communication, access to counseling services, promoting self-care, utilizing the Center's practical information, and organizing commemorative events are essential strategies for creating a healing environment for employees. By implementing these evidence-based strategies, organizations can help their workforce navigate the difficult journey of grief and foster emotional wellness.