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April 18, 2023 3:15pm

Investor Perspective: What to Do Following a Workplace Tragedy

What to Do Following a Workplace Tragedy

Tragic events can happen unexpectedly, and they can be challenging to cope with, especially for employees who witnessed or were affected by the event. It could be the death of a coworker, a natural disaster, or a violent incident in the workplace. With last week’s tragedy occurring at Old National Bank, it is essential for employers to evaluate safety and security protocols, as well as how to provide support to employees impacted by the loss of loved ones, co-workers, or were connected through care and concern for innocent lives violently taken.

In the days and weeks following a tragic event happening in the workplace, here are some considerations for employers:


Communicate with Employees

One of the most crucial things all employers can do after a tragic event is to communicate with employees. Yes, talk with all employees. Provide clear and honest information about what happened, and steps being taken to deal with the situation. Engage in conversation, offer support, compassion, and reaffirming statements. Follow up and check in with employees and reassess additional communication needs frequently.

Offer Counseling and Emotional Support

Tragic events can have a profound impact on employees’ emotional well-being. In addition to initial communication, employers should also be prepared to provide resources or support services that employees can access – such as an employee assistance programs, special counseling services, or bringing in other resources such as clergy or corporate chaplain services.

Allow for Time Off

After a tragic event, employees may need time to grieve, receive counseling or deal with personal matters. Employers should consider offering employees time off for counseling, attendance at funerals or services, to arrange childcare, or other personal matters. Consider offering this time away as bereavement leave or personal leave.

Evaluate Returning to the Scene – Should it Happen at Your Workplace

Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to find a safe and secure new workspace for employees. Carefully evaluate the timing of returning to work in general, giving employees adequate time away to address personal and/or family needs.  Additionally, evaluate the timing of returning to the location of a tragic event to gather materials and personal belongings. Seek guidance from experts to help quickly assess the options and needs for staff.

Provide Resources for Financial Assistance

A tragic event can also have a financial impact on employees. In certain circumstances, employers should consider providing resources for financial assistance, such as access to loans, or other forms of financial support which may cover funeral expenses, housing, meals, clothing, etc.  Community resources, such as the American Red Cross and other organizations, may also offer support for certain needs.

Create a Supportive Work Environment

Employers should work to create an open and supportive work environment that encourages employees to seek help when needed. Not everyone will readily want to talk about the situation, however, continue to foster an open, transparent culture that encourages communication and provides a safe space for employees to express their emotions.

 Provide Training for Managers

Managers play a critical role in supporting employees after a tragic event. Employers should provide training for managers to help identify and address signs of distress with employees. This training can include how to provide emotional support, refer employees to counseling services, and communicate effectively with them.

Evaluate and Improve Crisis Response Plans

Employers should evaluate current safety and security protocols and crisis response plans. Consider employee safety, security property, disaster recovery and other specific plans that may need to be in place. Implement changes and conduct “practice sessions” or “mock drills” – be it fire, tornado, active shooter, or other scenarios to help employees understand what to do and where to go.  Seek guidance from law enforcement for additional training and educational opportunities.  Additionally, ensure leaders have appropriate “go to” emergency resources in their cell phone’s contacts list who can provide advice and help in creating a time sensitive plan, specific to your business’ needs.

In the wake of a workplace tragedy, the impact on employees, families, and communities can be immense. As employers, it is critical to offer support and resources to those who are grappling with loss, fear, and grief.  The weight of a tragedy is immense, but through empathy, understanding, and decisive action, employers can help ease the burden on employees, offering a beacon of hope and stability amid the chaos. In times of sorrow, may we be the leaders our employees need, providing unwavering support as they cope with the aftermath of the unimaginable.

Amy Newbanks Letke, Founder & CEO, Integrity HR, Inc.