Personal Issues on Business Time

We have been struggling with personal issues at work. For me, it’s a family illness. For one of my key employees it’s a relationship that’s not going so well. Another employee is facing financial difficulties. And a third has her head in the clouds, planning a wedding. It all seems to be ganging up on us. As the owner, I know I’m responsible for keeping things at work on track. I’m looking for advice on the right approach. I know this is how life goes sometimes, but I’m worried about the toll it might take on the business. Where do I draw the line?

Thoughts of the Day: Life intrudes, often at the most inconvenient times. Realistically assess what each employee needs in the way of relief or support. Be careful about setting precedents you can live with. Invite people to participate in groups. Know when you have to step in and do something.

It’s impossible to control what life throws our way. You can’t ignore the problems – they walk in the door each morning and stick around through the day, or pop up at the most inconvenient times. Deal productively with what’s going by trying to limit the disruptions at work.

First, check your own situation. You’re probably hurting. Give yourself space to process what’s going. Take time off to be with your family. Get counseling. Find people to talk to who will help you get through this.

Assess how each personal situation is impacting the business. Pitch work as a therapeutic distraction. Ask people to curb the inclination to dwell on problems during work hours.

Set reasonable expectations. If someone were out with a broken leg you wouldn’t expect them to be at work pulling full weight. Just because the problem is more emotional than physical, you can still lighten workloads temporarily.

Pick interim managers to be on top of deadlines. Make a plan for interruptions. Allow for time during the day to address issues or attend to outside appointments. See if changing the time of meetings makes it easier to balance work and personal demands. Does anyone need to shift from full time to part time?

Be careful about setting precedents you can live with. For example, for each year of service, employees gain an extra day of emergency time off, which they can store up in case of need. Remind people that personal days are for emergencies, and should be used as such.

People who need financial support may come to you for help. Set up rules that keep things in check. Limit damage to outcomes you’ll be able to live with, in case things don’t go as planned.

You can be proactive about building emergency financial funds. Set up a relationship with a credit union. Encourage employees to open an account when they’re hired, and to put aside a few dollars a week for emergencies.

If you intend to lend money from company coffers, make sure all shareholders are okay with that. Put boundaries around how much, and how it gets paid back. Have employees sign a note agreeing to the terms.

Even though people are struggling with different problems, the ways of coping are often the same. Walks, good diet, meditation, fresh air are recommended for all kinds of stressful situations. Take the lead on encouraging everyone around you to join in.

Here’s a few examples of fast, cheap solutions. Fresh fruit at the coffee table. Platter of veggies in the refrigerator that you bring out at lunch for everyone to partake. Meditation for 20 minutes mid-afternoon. Brisk walk around the building at mid-morning. Just by being together, people gather strength and encouragement. Make the conditions right for that to happen.

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