3 ways to keep absenteeism from derailing projects

IT is more specialized than ever. While having teams of experts is often a good thing, there is a major downside: Absenteeism can quickly derail a project. 

With flu season on us (and looking to be especially bad), it’s more important than ever to have a solid plan for staying on deadline, even with fewer staffers in the office. And most managers agree it’s a major issue: 75% of respondents to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey said that employee absences have a moderate to large impact on revenue and productivity.

On top of that, supervisors spent an average of 4.2 hours a week — or 5.3 weeks a year — dealing with absences, including finding replacements, adjusting workflow and providing training, the survey showed.

On average, supervisors were perceived to be 15.7% less productive and co-workers 29.5% less productive when providing coverage for a typical absence day.

Planning ahead

Some absence issues are more predictable than others: Days around holidays, Mondays, Fridays and flu season are all likely to lead to fewer techs at their desks.

But because you’ll never know for sure who will be out when, it’s important that you prepare yourself for the inevitable. Here are three ways to do that without having things come to a grinding halt:

  1. Cross-train. Having every worker know a little bit about their co-workers’ responsibilities can be a big help – especially in a situation where a worker will be out for an extended period of time. Lengthy illnesses or time away requires at least some ability to pitch in (and workers will appreciate knowing someone can help fill in for them).
  2. Update frequently. Make sure your techs are frequently updating you on where they stand on projects (or are logging these updates somewhere you can access them). That way you can have other team members pick up where an absent co-worker left off rather than scrambling to figure out what he or she was working on.
  3. Try to overstaff. Obviously, this is easier said than done. But make the case as best you can for running at or above optimal staff levels rather than at the minimal level. When making the pitch focus on what losing one or more staffers – in the short-run or long-term – could mean to your productivity and bottom line.

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