January 6, 2014

Are You Prepared to Work Alone?

Alone working in office with a lot of booksThis question is directed to management. What would you really do if every single person on your team or in your department called off of work on the same day?

This may sound purely hypothetical, but hear me out.

A family member was out of town for the holiday season. She used her vacation time to take off, but it did not cover the last two days of the time she’d be away. She also had more than 40 hours of personal leave time that needed to be used. So, she called off work for the last two days of her vacation.

The problem was, upon calling off one day, she discovered that every other worker on her team (besides her boss) had also called off or wasn’t scheduled that day.

Many workers were already on vacation for the Christmas and New Year holidays, and a couple others called in sick. Again, this may sound like a one in a million chance of happening, but for small companies with a limited amount of staff, this can be a very “real” issue. In fact, studies show that December is the most popular month for workers to call in sick.

Imagine if you, the manager, went in to work tomorrow to discover that none of your staff would be coming in. What do you do?

Hopefully your management team never finds itself in this position, but just in case, below are six steps you can take to rectify the situation:

1. Step up

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. You cannot force an employee to come into the office just because you’re low on staff, especially on his/her day off. In this situation, the manager will have to step up and accept the fact that he or she may have to solely handle his/her team’s responsibilities for that day. But no worries, management is built to handle these types of scenarios, right?

2. Call temp services

Perhaps you can’t force your employees to come to work, but you can get help elsewhere. Thank goodness for temporary services. Hopefully your company already has a staffing service it works with to immediately recruit a few temp workers to help complete the day’s workload. If not, grab the nearest phone book (or open Google search) and start dialing.

3. Change locations

If you’re working alone, you may have to move forgo the lush office with the serene view for the front desk to greet visitors and guests. If your receptionist happens to be at work that day (and not a part of your department/team), thank your lucky stars.

4. Forward all calls

Until help arrives, you’ll need to have all calls forwarded to your line. This could inevitably mean that you are flooded with calls that day. You may want to record a general message for the voicemail, and then take some time to periodically sift through voicemails, prioritizing which need immediate response and which can wait for when your full staff is back in office. If your staff’s workload is just too large to deal with phone calls that day, you can also record an out-of-office message ensuring callers that they will receive a response when the office (or department) has reopened.

5. Make a game plan

Assess your staff’s workload for the day to determine what’s of the utmost importance. Make a list of what needs to be completed that day and what can wait for when your staff returns. Ensure that you have all the necessary tools to complete each task (login credentials, software systems, contact numbers, etc.) and begin working, marking off each assignment as you go.

6. Prepare backup plan

No manager wants to find him or herself in this position. To ensure you’re prepared (just in case) for the future, take some time to create a detailed “backup plan” for if ever a large majority of your staff is out of the office. Better to prepare in advance to eliminate the stress and frustration of an unexpected decline in staff. Prepare this plan when your staff returns…of course.

Read more in Management Styles

Marks’ stories have also been published in a variety of newspaper, magazine and online formats including The Arizona Republic, The Daily Herald, Arizona Foothills Magazine and various classroom magazines of Scholastic Inc. Service is her passion, writing is her platform and uplifting and inspiring the community is her purpose. Marks received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.
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