Life happens. There’s occurrences and instances that we need to attend to outside of work, sometimes negatively impacting productivity and engagement on-the-job. So, what should we do about it?
We all have events in our lives that take us away from work – happy moments including getting hitched, welcoming a new baby, and taking those much-needed vacations. There’s also the not-so-happy moments that may slow down our deliverables at work, and this cold and flu season is a top culprit. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that illness costs employers nearly $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity.
So back to our question. What do we do about the inevitable periods of falling productivity and engagement relapses? Here’s some suggestions for all of us, and if you’re a manager, what you can share with your employees.
- Be proactive. If you know there’s a high likelihood of missing a deadline due to something that creeps up on you outside of work – your kid’s school is closed for the day/week, a scheduled medical procedure, a family reunion at the lake – you still must deliver projects on time, and the great thing about these kind life events is that you have the time to reconfigure project due dates while still meeting them. So be proactive and ensure that the deliverables that are due, aren’t due when you’re out of town.
- Adjust the deliverable. For the life events you don’t see coming – getting sick, car troubles, a family emergency – there’s a high likelihood that project due dates are out the window. After having multiple bosses and managing many employees over the years, here’s my suggestion: see how you can still deliver, despite what’s going on. It may be appropriate to ask a coworker to help you out. It may be OK to move the due date out a couple days. Or, it may make the most sense to deliver “Part 1 of 2”, to buy you some time. Whatever you decide, ensure what you propose is well-received by the stakeholders involved before you communicate the final plan.
- Communicate. Many of us don’t want to communicate details around why we’re out of the office to coworkers and managers, and why we can’t meet a deliverable. Many of us perceive it as relaying a personal sob story that coworkers or managers could perceive as an excuse, when what it really comes down to is simply needing a sick day, or a day to have something urgently repaired (car, furnace, fill in the blank!). So, what do you say?
- If you’re not comfortable stating the life event getting in the way of work, consider saying something along the lines of “due to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances, I must adjust the deliverable scope and/or due date. Here’s the new plan, please let me know if you agree.”
- Be sure to include that you’ve already vetted the adjusted plan with the internal team and the end client, and they’re OK with the change (as appropriate).
- Improve onboarding. Nip it in the bud before losses in productivity and engagement happen - starting with your new hires. Industry research finds organizations that standardize their new hire onboarding process and automate onboarding tasks have experienced increases in retention by over 50%, and improved productivity by 18%. Bottom line, the more engaged you get a new hire - even before their first day on the job – you help to ensure they’re a more productive, engaged employee - and for the longer-term.
Hope you find this helpful, and in the meantime, here’s to good health, productivity, and engagement in the workplace!