The weather is changing and – if your business is like everyone else’s – employees are starting to call in sick. If they haven’t started yet, they certainly will soon. Do you have a plan for how you’re going to cope to with this year’s seasonal absences?
Part of Message Direct’s service model involves helping our clients maintain business continuity in the event of a crisis. Along those lines, we’re offering some tips on how your company can cope with sick leave absences that are sure to occur as the weather begins to change:
- Train your staff in prevention protocol.
We’ve all heard the old adage: prevention is the best medicine. Closed environments like an office can become a breeding ground for seasonal viruses like the flu. One of the best things that you can do to prevent excessive absences is to set up clear protocol through which your staff can reduce the spread of illness. Encourage hand washing and provide hand sanitizer to start with. Beyond that, you may also consider making seasonal flu vaccinations available to your employees. The latter adds value for the business as well as for them.
- Clearly establish the tasks that take priority.
When you’re short-staffed and facing a mountain of deadlines, the employees that are in the office can easily become overwhelmed. It’s management’s job to stay ahead of a crisis like this and identify those tasks which need to be given priority. In all likelihood, it is probably not going to be possible to get everything done. That is why it’s essential that you’re able to single out those jobs that are mission-critical. Complete them first, and push all non-essential projects to the backburner.
- Establish a roster of back-up staff.
This, of course, depends on the type of operation you are running. If you employ hourly staff, then it’s wise to take note of which employees wouldn’t mind picking up a few extra hours for some extra pay. If your staff are on salary, then it’s going to be more difficult to assemble a back-up team. Even so, you may have a short-list of temps that you occasionally work with. As autumn approaches, you may want to reach out to these occasional or former employees. Let them know that you may have need of their help in the coming weeks.
- Outsource any critical tasks that you can.
Honestly, relying on temporary staff is less than ideal. You never know whether or not they’re going to be available when you need them. Not only that, they’re probably not going to be very well-trained for the tasks at hand. A much better proposition is to outsource any tasks you can to a professional agency.This is an area in which Message Direct can lend a hand—specifically as it pertains to manning the telephones. Incoming calls can be severely disruptive when the office is short-staffed. Some of the calls are likely to be time-wasters. Opposite this, other important calls (potential sales, for example) could easily be missed. Look into our Holiday & Temporary Cover to learn more about how we can assist when your receptionist is out sick, or when you need to divert his or her attention to tasks other than answering the phone.
- Fall back on teamwork.
Teamwork is critical when you have a few people out of the office. You’ll be surprised how much your team can accomplish when they band together. It’s important to plan and train for these moments so that your team has an idea of how they can execute better teamwork when the need arises. That said, there is no better practice than a real emergency. When your team really comes together and works as a unit, you’ll notice stronger morale developing. This bodes well for office operations in general, as the bonds that were created during this period of short-handedness is likely to continue once operations are back to normal. That means you may end up enjoying higher levels of productivity in the future.
- Stress the importance of communication.
Part and parcel to teamwork is communication. It’s an essential element of efficiency, though it is often neglected. You can’t force your staff to communicate, but you can at least encourage them to. You can also make a point of asking who needs help and in which areas. Ideally, you want to be to supply each department with all of the resources and extra help that can be afforded. Once employees see that asking for help actually works and doesn’t draw criticism, they’re likely to do it again in the future. This is also a great way to weed out redundancies and streamline operations in general.
- Don’t forget to take breaks.
Everyone knows that breaks are important, but few are really aware of the scope. Research suggests that the most productive employees work at a stretch of just over 50 minutes at a time. Then they take a break of just under 20 minutes. Office managers may not want to believe this, but the evidence is there. Actually, working in blocks like this, and taking relatively generous breaks, will actually shore up productivity. Your employees will spend less time hammering away at their keyboards, and they’ll get more done in the process. Regular breaks are even more important during the high stress of an understaffed workday.
- Measure and monitor absences.
It’s essential to keep records so that you can identify those who are abusing the system. It’s unfortunate, but some employees will take advantage of sick leave policies to schedule themselves a bit of regular, extra downtime. Keep records, and you’ll quickly be able to identify a pattern of sick leave, if one exists. Of course, be generous and give the benefit of the doubt until it’s undeniable that a problem is emerging.
Above all, don’t forget that your staff suffer the most during peak periods of absence. Make a point of recognising the work they do that goes above and beyond their typical workload. And don’t hesitate to reward the extra work they’ve done. Recognition like this is critical to ongoing morale.