Q: I need to schedule some orthopedic surgery and want to make it as undisruptive 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?
Janelle, 52, director of benefits
A: 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 post-surgery 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 of 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 across to your peers.
At this point, bring your boss 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 put together 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 and/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 e-mail 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.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.