De­velop plan to ease ef­fects of med­i­cal leave


I need to sched­ule some or­tho­pe­dic surgery and want to make it as easy as pos­si­ble for my co-work­ers. It’s not an emer­gency, so I do have some lat­i­tude on the tim­ing. What steps do you sug­gest?

Ob­vi­ously put your health first, and then work with oth­ers to set up a solid plan.

First of all, what’s the time frame for surgery? How far out is the latest date you would want to have it? What is the post­surgery process? Think about the amount of time you will be un­able to work at all, as well as lim­its on mo­bil­ity that could af­fect your abil­ity to do your job.

Once you know that, look at your work cal­en­dar to de­ter­mine when known peaks or lulls may oc­cur. For ex­am­ple, you may be in­volved in your com­pany’s open en­roll­ment pe­riod, so you would want to work around that if you can.

As your next step, think through a de­tailed plan. List all the work items that will need to be del­e­gated, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions that will need to go out and the un­pre­dictable events that tend to oc­cur dur­ing your work­days.

Then have pro­posed so­lu­tions for all of these needs. This in­cludes items that you can do in ad­vance and have ready when needed. Also con­sider ways that this can be devel­op­men­tal for team mem­bers, not just more work. Or if you are a one-per­son team, iden­tify ideas that can spread some of the work to your peers.

At this point, bring your bosses into the con­ver­sa­tion. Let them know the sit­u­a­tion, and lay out your view of the needs that will be cre­ated by your ab­sence, as well as the so­lu­tions you sug­gest. Ev­ery boss ap­pre­ci­ates a team mem­ber who of­fers so­lu­tions and not just problems. Then work to­gether to de­velop a fleshed-out plan for cov­er­ing dur­ing your ab­sence.

Now it’s time to share your news with your co-work­ers at what­ever level you’re com­fort­able with. Then, de­pend­ing on the plan you work out, you or your boss can dis­cuss the work plan with your col­leagues.

Build in enough time to brief in­di­vid­u­als on their par­tic­u­lar work items.

If some­one is go­ing to be a con­tact point for some­one else, make an email in­tro­duc­tion to smooth the way.

Re­call all of the hic­cups that you have ex­pe­ri­enced when some­one is out un­ex­pect­edly, and mit­i­gate them through your plan.

We all know that the best-laid plans will fall short. So, what if some­thing changes? You need to be out longer, you need to go out sooner, etc.? The tran­si­tion steps you have put in place will help ease the pain of that. You are build­ing trust on the team through your prepa­ra­tions, and that will help them ride out ex­tra dis­rup­tion.

And in all of this, put tak­ing care of your­self first. Despite how we may feel some­times — or want to feel — we are not in­dis­pens­able at work. But our health is ir­re­place­able. So don’t rush your re­turn to work. You will need rest and re­hab, so make a pri­or­ity of in­vest­ing in your heal­ing.

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