Know when to take a break from work

We’ve all been there – you’ve been dealing with personal matters for a number of weeks, yet you’ve maintained the same workload.  Perhaps you haven’t even told co-workers who you trust what’s been going on, because of the gravity of the matter.

Why?  Maybe you were attempting to maintain some semblance of normalcy or maybe because you don’t want your co-workers to perceive you as a weaker person.  Nonetheless, at some point your mind gives up and you struggle to behave as professionally as you intend.

Maybe you get a little sensitive to jokes made at work or you begin to doubt the motives of your co-workers.  Perhaps you start taking naps at your desk while facing your computer, or maybe the co-workers you doubted begin asking if your situation at home has changed.  Whatever the reason, the result is clear: you’ve been suppressing the issues related to a personal matter for too long and you need to take time off.

You may think that the challenge is deciding when the right time would be to ask, but in reality, the biggest challenge is walking into your manager’s office, describing the situation, and making your request.

If you’re concerned about …

Your co-workers:  remember how much time you spend with them at work; they know you well.  They could probably feel when your personal issues began, but chose to wait until you thought it was appropriate to speak about the issue.

Your job being there when you return:  create a plan and discuss a timeline of your return with your boss.  Perhaps you don’t need to leave today, but you decide that your mind will be at ease if in one week, you can take a three-week leave.  By bringing a plan such as this to your boss` it shows that you respect the leave process, and do care about your work.

Your income: short-term disability may not be able to cover 100% of your pay but it is likely to cover at least 60%.  If this is not available, consider using whatever vacation pay you have, or even deciding to save money for one month, then going on a leave without pay.


Geraldine Sangalang is an HR pro working at the Robson Square Courthouse.  She volunteers as a BC HRMA GV CAN Networking Co-Chair, as well as a recruiter for Meaningful Volunteer.  On her private time, Geraldine loves scrapbooking, hiking, kayaking, and dining out with friends.

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4 Responses

  1. In the U.S. short term disability will probably not pay any benefits to help you deal with a personal matter – unless you are unable to work for a medical reason. Don’t assume all family leaves will be paid.

    • Definitely. Everyone’s coverage is different here in Canada. Even if you do get approved to take a leave, you won’t necessarily get paid.

      Some insurance policies offer partial coverage if you provide adequate proof of need from a doctor.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. I’m reminded of the knowing-doing gap that we talk about in training. It is not the same to know something as it is to do something. Kind of like fitness – we know we should eat better/exercise more, but do we?

    You’ve raised a good question for me – how do you as an HR professional handle this situation? Can we help managers recognize the early warning signals and start the conversation?

    • You’ve raised an interesting point, Holly.

      I was actually inspired to write about this topic because a good friend of mine was approached by an HR manager to consider taking a leave. Now that my friend has drafted a plan regarding what preparations must be made at work to minimize the shock of this friend’s absence, HR managers are requesting more personal information regarding the issue.

      I thought it was so great that my friend was approached by HR – this person really wouldn’t have considered taking a leave to deal with what’s going on at home, but would benefit greatly from taking time out from work.

      My friend has been working at the same organization for more than 7 years. HR told my friend their rationale behind suggesting a leave is because of their concern, and hope that my friend will continue to stay with the company over time.

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