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People often spend more time with co-workers during the week than they do with their families. This creates a special type of camaraderie in the workplace. When a co-worker dies, other employees can feel like they've lost part of a second family. Finding the right way to honor the employee who passed can help the surviving employees heal.
The co-worker's family likely planned a funeral or memorial service that many from the workplace attended, but having a separate memorial service at work helps show how the deceased co-worker impacted the company. Encourage employees to wear black armbands or ribbons, and schedule a date and time for the service. Have those close to the co-worker honor him by sharing some memories, such as those showcasing his strong work ethic or his sense of humor.
When someone close to you dies, it often makes you feel helpless and small. You can't change what happened to him, but you can take action to help the world be better in his honor. Collect voluntary donations from employees to give to a cause the deceased co-worker would be proud of. For example, if he died from an illness such as diabetes or heart disease, donate the collected funds in his name to an appropriate research foundation. If he died in a car accident, send the money to an organization that promotes safe driving education. He might have left small children behind, and if so, you can put the money in an education trust for them.
Lasting commemorations can bring comfort and closure to your employees. Placing a plaque in your lobby or on the hall where the deceased's office is located gives a physical memorial of his life. As a group, you can plant a tree and note it as planted in his memory. You can also use more public avenues, such as a playground or park, and donate equipment or benches with his name engraved on them.
When deciding on the best way to honor a co-worker that passed away, keep in mind what kind of precedent you're setting. Employees should be treated equitably when they die; you can't hold a memorial service for one and ignore the death of another. You don't have to honor each deceased employee in the same manner, but how you honor them should be equivalent. For example, if you collect funds to donate to a charity for one employee, you should plan to collect funds for other deceased employees as well, even if that money is used to rebuild a playground instead of going to charity.
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Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.