In last week’s newsletter, I wrote a bit about what my week looked like at work after testing positive for COVID over the Christmas weekend. As I mentioned, my case was very mild, and the only real symptom I had to deal with was fatigue, such as needing to sleep 12-16 hours daily. Over the holiday, that was fine, but when work started on Tuesday, I had to adjust my days to account for the need to take breaks and even maybe a nap. Luckily that week between Christmas and New Year’s is perhaps the most manageable week of the year to be flexible since there are generally so few meetings. My week fits that description.
I wrote about the fact that others might not have done the same thing, that maybe taking a couple more days off might have been better for them, but this worked for me. I had some things I wanted to keep moving or wrap up before the end of the year, so working 6 hours per day and taking breaks allowed me to do that while also getting the rest I needed. The fact that I work from home already made this possible in the first place. I would not have worked if I needed to go to an office.
Ultimately, my point was that having one way to handle every sickness that your staff is dealing with that everyone needs to follow might be dumb. My case of COVID was mild, requiring just some extra rest. Other cases might require true time away from work. Still, others may be dealing with sick kids or sick parents on top of their illnesses. How they could manage whatever work they could do during that time would look very different, and managers need to allow for that.
Later it occurred to me that mental health should be handled the same way in the workplace. No two people are the same or have the same mental health issues. What I could accomplish work-wise during the time I was medicated and seeing a therapist might not be the same as someone else in therapy. One person might need some time away from work during a crisis, while someone else might need work to be the thing that keeps them living with some day-to-day structure. There will not be one solution that fits everyone. In any of these situations, allowing employees to find what works for them and their work will be essential. Providing some flexibility will go a long way toward keeping an employee engaged instead of making them feel unsupported and looking to go elsewhere. It might also go a long way toward helping them heal as well, to know they have a consistent source of income that is not at risk.
Yes, this would also apply to things like parental leave and death in the family leave, but those are posts for another day. Today I ask that as you consider mental health accommodations, you do so with a mind toward flexibility. That open communication between manager and employee could go a long way toward that person feeling supported and willing to continue in their career within your organization and them feeling the need to get away from your organization.
I know which is the kind of place I want to create and work in myself.
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