Out Sick! 5 Tips to Prepare Your Team for Unexpected Long-Term Illness

With the onset of COVID-19 and not knowing what lies ahead, many are concerned about the potential impact on our personal lives and to the workplace. As a team, are you prepared for a team member (or members) to be out sick without any warning and with no assurance of when they will return to work?  What will you do if business is interrupted?

The truth is that many of us are hoping that no one will get sick.  However, hope alone is not a strategy, a plan, or a process.  Here are 5 tips to prepare for unexpected business and productivity interruptions due to sudden illness on the team.

1 – Know the details
Business continuity is imperative.  To do this, you’ll need to know what’s required to keep productivity flowing.  Conduct an assessment to identify current work activities, stages of development, who is involved, dependencies, priorities, due dates, etc.  Prioritize and ladder items based on the level of importance.  Understand what must get done and what is nice to have. Update it regularly.

2 – Create a back-up
Develop a plan to cover the work if someone becomes ill.  Consider creating plan A and plan B in case multiple people are impacted.  In addition, ensure that files are stored in a secure and shareable location and access is assigned to more than one person on the team.  Create and require a daily file back-up routine for the team to follow.

3 – Rally the troops
Bring the team together to discuss what might happen if someone goes out before it occurs.  Ask for their ideas and gain their buy-in, support, and participation in working together to cover the work collectively.

4 – Use everyone’s talent
This is a good time to allow potential leaders to take the lead and develop suggestions on how the team should operate in this situation.  Don’t rely on managers only to provide a plan.  Empower employees to take a leading role.  Your vote of confidence in their abilities to plan may encourage them to be more responsive, dive in, and help.

5 – Know your company policies
Become familiar with your company’s policies regarding sick time and business continuity.  Consult with your HR or legal department to ensure you’re compliant with policies for employees and compliant in relations with other hired or contractual labor.


Charlotte Ntreh is a Partner at PeopleResults where she helps clients navigate change, build, and sustain high performing organizations with measurable results. You can reach her at cntreh@people-results.com, on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cntreh/ or follow her on twitter @cntreh.