Last week we had a bug hit our house that knocked out Joey with high fevers like a bowl of hot peppers and flu symptoms. As I rearranged my appointments and assignments I thought back to previous places I had worked and how sick leave can be handled so different by managers and an organization in general. I believe that how sick leave is handled can improve or ruin your employee engagement.
Here are two examples of managing sick leave I experienced.
One manager took the stance that you could use sick days as needed to take care of yourself and your family, including a sick spouse. We had several stay-at-home parents in the team’s families. Stay-at-home parents don’t get sick days!
Another manager took a very hard stance on limited flexibility in scheduling or work environment. Every minute missed was tracked and accounted for. It was highly suggested that you only take of if you were the one who was sick, not for your children or other family members.
The flexibility and understanding in Job 1 usually resulted in less time away from work for sick family. The employees would often work from home, come back in after the family was resting, or put in extra time after the illness had passed. It was often hard to get people to actually even take a sick day.
The rigidness of Job 2’s execution of sick leave achieved the desired result of management…not abusing the system. However, employee engagement and morale was low and this was often cited as one of the key reasons. Further, many took unpaid days off to tend to their families and had no desire to “make up” the work time missed.
Which would you prefer?
As an employee it’s easy to say the more flexible environment. How about as a leader though? I know it can be tough to loosen the reins and be flexible in your environment. And yes, there will be those who abuse it. We will discuss how to manage that in another article. But look at the benefits of the flexible environment.
As a manager and a leader, I always want everyone working at their best for me. If my team is distracted by someone being sick at home, or stressing out about how many sick days/hours they have, they are not focused on producing well for me. The more I take care of them as a person, the more they take care of my business.
There was even a time when I let an employee miss a work event because his dog was super sick and needed to be put down! I know it seems crazy, but he probably put in 50-60 hours a week before and after that on a regular basis because he cared about his work so much. It was the least I could do to excuse him to take care of his sick “family”! (By the way, he didn’t actually miss work, just the event.)
The more understanding and sympathetic you can be to your team when it comes to them being sick, or someone in their family, the stronger employee engagement you will have. Each team member watches how you care for the others, and even if they never need the sick leave, knowing how you handle it will increase their appreciation for the team as well. Remember how you like to be treated when you are sick!