What’s Your Sick Leave Strategy?
You have to be truly off the grid not to know about the corona virus. Coverage of the pandemic saturates news cycles with the increasing number of cases, school closures, travel advisories, and recommended precautions. Hand sanitizer is sold out in many cities (though soap and water are just as effective), people are “elbow bumping” instead of shaking hands, and everyone with travel plans, myself included, is a quivering mass of anxiety trying to figure out whether we should cancel.
As business owners, we have a whole additional level of anxiety. Is our business going to make it through the crisis? Every time an employee sneezes, we startle, then chase them down with the Lysol can (or is that just me?). We wipe down every desk, every mouse, and every door handle even though we just did it an hour ago. I even saw a recipe on Facebook for making your own hand sanitizer (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hand-sanitizer-coronavirus-make-your-own/?fbclid=IwAR3Szzk_6YKXUdyyXjvJZomkvlx95yJheXNpyOCwViKV2R79sybs3QYe7YI). It’s as if Steven King’s The Stand has come to life. (By the way, it’s probably not a good idea to read that book right now.)
I don’t know about you, but as a business owner myself, I am sick and tired (pun intended) of feeling out of control.
One way business owners can take back control is to review their sick leave policy, though under the circumstances, it might be more apt to call it a sick leave strategy. Providing employees paid sick leave is the law in Arizona—three days (24 hours) for small business owners with 14 or fewer employees. That isn’t much time, especially since this cold and flu season has been rough since Halloween. What if schools close, or kids get sick? These cases are covered by the AZ law, but that fact will do you or your employee little good if they have already used up their time.
What will you do if one of your employees doesn’t have the sick time? Require they use their vacation leave to make up the time? Have them to come in anyway and infect everyone else? Is telecommuting an option? It’s important to be flexible.
Let me tell you what you don’t want to do. In my previous life, I worked at a large corporation, where the only acceptable reason to take sick leave was if you were in the hospital. Otherwise you had better sit your butt at your desk. As a result, I watched a building of 500 people share the same nasty flu over and over and over again. Finally, as a leader I insisted people stay home. If they didn’t have the sick leave, we made exceptions, created flexible work schedules to make up the hours, asked healthy employees’ to gift them additional time, or even created work outside their usual scope they could do at home. Anything to keep them out of the office until they were healthy. Meanwhile, back at the office, we sanitized everything! I went through cases and cases of Lysol and Clorox wipes that winter. After a tough couple of weeks, with a lot of absences (including my own for a miserable week), we were finally back to a full working crew.
Sickness happens. You can let it derail your business, or you can be proactive and compassionate, and keep your business running and productive. Be creative. Maybe you need to allow telework or to hire a few temporary workers (while assuring your full time workers you’re not replacing them). Every business is unique, and there are many ways to address this situation, so I’m not going to give you a one-size-fits-all answer. Schedule a call so we can talk through the unique requirements of your business. Don’t wait for the coronavirus—or the seasonal flu—to close down your business. Let’s game plan your options today.