Your coworkers are like your team. All the members have unique roles or positions they play to accomplish a united goal. But what about when one or more members of the team are on the injured list? Good coaches should always have a backup plan.
When one team member becomes ill—a broken leg, COVID-19 infection, drug or alcohol use disorder—it’s a setback for several reasons. Not only is productivity affected, but so is morale.
All good employees should be appreciated or liked for their contribution to the office: quality of work, personality, or both. If a worker is not missed for at least one of these reasons, they probably shouldn’t be on the team. You should expect that coworkers or team members will be concerned and worried about the missing member’s welfare.
It’s moments like these that give HR and employees, i.e. team members, the opportunity to come together in a truly cohesive manner.
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How Illness in the Office Affects Morale
We all get sick. As a result, there are moments when we simply can’t perform at the expected level or at all for a certain period. That worker should not feel compelled to return to work while still ill.
That’s bad for the sick employees, who may take longer to heal, and the other employees, who would prefer not to work around other sick employees out of fear of becoming sick themselves. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the sick employee stays home.
On the other hand, an employee who becomes absent based on sickness often creates more work for other employees. It’s a touchy situation that is often precariously balanced.
These are the moments when the managers are forced to balance the needs of the sick and the healthy as well as the company’s goals and workload. They have to be both proactive and creative when it comes to maintaining a positive atmosphere for all employees, both the sick and the healthy.
The team also must come together and show support for the sick coworker and the company by doing whatever part of their job can’t wait for their healthy return.
Substance Use Disorder
Some illnesses are more acceptable than others. Substance abuse, although recognized as an illness by most physicians and scientists, is still judged by many as the user’s fault. The nature of the disease (it affects the brain’s reward system and rewires the brain) means the user may have little willpower to change their behavior.
A manager may need to stage an intervention to get the user into a rehabilitation center for alcohol or drugs. A policy of rehab rather than firing employees who admit to a problem can encourage the em[ployees to come forward before their work suffers.
People can judge harshly an employee who contracts COVID-19 if they have been engaging in risky behavior (not wearing a mask, attending crowded bars or beaches).
Managing Sick Employees and Sustaining Company Morale
The balance between supporting a sick employee and managing employee and team morale can be challenging. Flexibility is an essential part of the recipe for success. Consider options that take into consideration the needs of everyone, even alternatives that you wouldn’t usually consider.
Can you offer remote work to the sick employee? If so, this may be helpful to the whole team and help keep the workload balanced. Offering remote work is also a safety measure because it allows the sick employee to work in the comfort of his or her home and maintain a safe distance from other employees for health reasons.
Don’t overlook that you must also manage your morale. Remain calm and take your time as you navigate the best options for your team of employees. A frazzled leader can’t create a peaceful and confident atmosphere.
Steps that Can Improve Employee Morale
Just like the weather, there will be both rainy times and sunny times. Your goal should be to manage how your team handles the downtimes as well as the up times.
Allow employees to offer their ideas for resolution as well. An open-door policy that allows employees to voice their concerns is often the best policy. Speak truthfully and honestly about any issues that may be plaguing a particular employee or group of employees and seek ways to manage or resolve the situation.
Praise and encourage employees so they know that you recognize their hard work and efforts.
Don’t lose sight of your employees’ career goals. Sustain their vision by continuing the conversation. Let them know that you still acknowledge and encourage their career goals despite the tough situation.
It’s also a good idea to offer employees a temporary respite from work from time to time: an outing or day-away. It’s good to get away from the office and do something else as a group or team. Such a break helps restore company vigor and enthusiasm.
Managing sick employees while maintaining the overall morale of your employees may be difficult, but it’s possible.
As an HR professional, it’s in your best interest to keep your ears and eyes open and respond to the needs of your employees with sensitivity, creativity, and a willingness to step outside the box