A Manager’s Perspective on Extra Time Off

I work for a small company that is only able to offer part-time hours to most of its employees. A couple weeks ago, just as cold and flu season was starting to set in and people were beginning to use their sick days, I had several additional employees with life issues. One employee was struggling to get to work. She and her boyfriend share a car and it had been in the shop for a week. Her mom had been driving her 20 minutes to the train so she could commute over an hour more.  She didn’t feel she was being supported at home to get to her job. She turned to me as her support away from home.

Another employee’s father was in the hospital. Not only that, there was a good chance his father’s cancer had returned AND his aunt had forced herself into a decision making role and was making choices this employee and his sister did not agree with. Amidst all this, his aunt/godmother passed away suddenly. He called me. “I need a day off.” “Ok, take the time you need,” I said, meaning it but knowing the stress of having fewer employees show up for their shifts.

A third employee’s girlfriend is pregnant. I’d asked him how things were going with the baby and he replied, “not good.” Knowing he’s not a talker, I simply asked him to let me know if I could be helpful in any way, even though I knew that would most likely take him out of work for a day here or there.

So, why give all these people leeway? Why give them space to call in? To not be at work? Because – and you all know it! – LIFE HAPPENS.

One thing I have learned in management is the importance of empathy. I know, it’s a big word. But, it’s important. It is particularly important as an employer to understand that life has its unexpected ups and down and to be aware that the people who work for you have more going on than just work.

And don’t just care about the big things. The smaller things, the life occurrences that come up, are important to pay attention to as well. Did someone get offered last minute tickets to see their favourite sports team? Does someone want to leave work early because they’ve got a lot of homework to finish? Take a look at this person’s track record. Have they missed a lot of work or do they show up? Do they ask for a lot of patterned time off or are they conscientious about their vacations? If they work hard and do well and are a valuable member of your team, ask yourself, “What can I do today to make sure this person is happy at work because I helped make another part of their life run smoother?”

Yes, you need to make the distinction between when an employee needs a little time and when this person becomes a liability to the functionality of the company, but it is by showing compassion to your employees and not just caring about the job they are doing that you are able to develop a dedicated and productive team.

Managers: how do you feel about allowing your staff to take time off for emergencies, life issues or even just because they’re doing a good job?  

Employees: is your manager compassionate about what you have going on in your life?  How does this effect your dedication to your manager or the company you work for?

Alissa Melczer

Alissa works as the Director of Operations and Human Resources Director for an almost-new company on Chicago's North Shore. She has a Masters in Social Work with concentrations in health and children & families, and a Masters in Bioethics & Health Policy, both from Loyola University Chicago. When she's not corralling kids or staff, Alissa can be found cooking or watching one of those many prime-time shows. Alissa lives at home with three raucous animals: one fiancee and two cats.

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