At the moment, the news is full of stories about COVID 19– aka the coronavirus – and, among other things, the effect that having large numbers of staff out sick might have on a business.
As of yet, there are no reported cases in Georgia, and in many ways some feel that the virus is, for most, likely to be no worse than a flu virus. But the focus on illness and the effect it has on productivity does make this a good time to discuss how businesses – and managers, can better plan for employee absences, whatever the reason employees might unexpectedly not show up for work.
Even when a company's employees have a lot of flexibility built into their schedules, unexpected absences do happen, and they happen for lots of reasons. That doesn’t mean the employee, or the organization should have to suffer when it comes to getting the work done.
Make Calling Out More Efficient
It is perfectly OK to insist that employees report their absence from work as soon as they can. It is, however, important to make sure that the reporting process is as quick, easy and efficient as possible, to help everyone concerned.
The fact is that employees should not have to spend their time – especially if they are ill or dealing with an emergency – on hold while someone tracks their supervisor down, so they can speak to them. They should also not have to worry that if they do leave a message of some kind that it will get lost in the shuffle, and they will then face some kind of discipline for not reporting their absence in time.
This means that a formal reporting policy should be put in place and you should use technology to give employees a quick way to inform you what’s going on, whether that means sending an email, a text, leaving a voicemail or some combination of these options.
You should also realize that, on rare occasions, employees may not be able to make these notifications themselves and that dealing with their appointed representative – a partner or parent – should be something that is both acceptable and encouraged.
Offer the Extra Work Out to Volunteers
When an employee does call out, the work still needs to be done. Organizations should have a way to immediately get the word out that there are extra shifts or work. This gives employees who are in a position to pick up some extra work the opportunity to rearrange their schedule and help the company (and maybe themselves) out.
This could be as simple as texting another family member to pick the kids up after soccer practice. Or asking a friend if they can help a parent make dinner. The point is, employees might be able to pick up extra work if they have the ability to easily rearrange their schedules.
Stay in Touch
We’re talking about unexpected employee absences today. But another aspect of absences that needs to be addressed is letting employees know that they’re missed, and that work isn’t simply piling up on their desk. Give employees the space they need to take care of their business, but also let them know that the organization is supporting them during this time.
Employees at every level of the organization have unexpected things happen. Organizations should have the plans and technology in place to deal with the unexpected. Doing so will make the surprise much easier to bear and minimize the impact employee absences have on the organization as a whole.