Small and mid-sized Companies are often caught unprepared when one of their employees develops a serious illness, the impact of which can be profound and potentially undermine productivity and the overall dynamics in the office.
Unexpected emotions and awkwardness become barriers as coworkers are often unsure how to “act” when they learn about an employee that is ill. They can even exacerbate the stressful situation by their unintentional lack of sensitivity. The Business Owner, while concerned about the employee’s health, is also apprehensive about the need for the employee to be out of work and the effect on the other employees, productivity and Client satisfaction.
It’s a difficult time and here are some best practices to deploy when an employee develops a serious illness:
Employee illness must be handled with sensitivity and discretion. Some employees want their illness to remain a secret; others prefer that the rest of the office be made aware of their situation. The employee should feel as if they have a say in the matter and not feel forced to reveal anything that will make them uncomfortable. Senior Management must respect their privacy and make certain that the office rumor mill doesn’t start to churn with the illness becoming the subject of gossip and speculation.
Depending upon the employee’s treatment plan, you might need to cross-train some of your existing employees or bring in temporary staff to ensure that the employee’s workload is being executed successfully and productivity will not suffer. While illness usually arises without any warning, all businesses should endeavor to cross-train staff in the case of such an eventuality or even for something as predictable as vacation.
It’s important to know your legal rights as they pertain to paid sick leave and Local, State and Federal laws. Seek out Legal Counsel to ensure that you are compliant and have the correct information to make important decisions including 1) Paid or Non-Paid Leave, 2) Worker’s Compensation and Payroll.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is the need for you to stay engaged in the situation. The diagnosis of a serious illness can sabotage the focus and attention of even your best employee. Be supportive and encourage the employee to feel comfortable if they have to come to you with any work-related requests or information about their illness. Remember too that they will be under a lot of strain and may need additional support from other employees in order for them to execute the responsibilities of their job.
Coping with a serious illness is extremely stressful. Having a supportive community of coworkers can often help to make this trying time a little easier.
Read More – Illness in the Workplace
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.