I must confess one of my least favorite traits about myself: I’m sickly. In fact, I come from a long line of sickies, with one side of my family tree so full of ailments it would take a whole blog post just to tell the tale. When I was younger, I was in total denial about this state of affairs – after all, who wants to be anything other than strong and healthy? But once I finally came to grips with the fact that I’m what my husband calls a “delicate flower,” I was able to plan accordingly.
As Solo PR Pros, it’s important for us to think through various emergency scenarios. Hopefully you’re not a full-blown sickie, but at some time or another you – or a family member – will have an illness or injury that will compromise your ability to perform at 100%. I’m happy to share with you my top lessons learned (all of these tips apply to when you have an ill family member, as well):
1. Have a backup
At any given moment, you should know who you would tap to take on your workload if an emergency struck (it can be one person, or a different person for each client). Obviously, this needs to be a team you trust completely not to take those clients from you, but the Solo PR community is full of honorable, talented people – take time to strengthen those relationships before you need them.
2. Work when you feel like it
If you’re ill and after working a couple hours you feel like you were hit by a train, it’s OK to go back to bed. One of the joys of being solo is you can always work late, and if you play your cards right, no one will be the wiser.
3. Admit you’re human
Over the course of my career I’ve seen many people (who don’t seem to have as much experience being sick as I do) try to forge ahead as if nothing is happening, and their work product suffers. Your clients and colleagues will be much happier if you take a day or two off, than if you make a big mistake they then have to clean up.
4. Don’t cause undue alarm
If you’re able to continue meeting your deadlines, and you aren’t sure what’s wrong with you yet, you may want to consider keeping the situation under your hat when it comes to your clients. If you tell them, “I have a health issue, and I’m undergoing some medical tests,” it’s only natural that – after a period of worrying about you – they’ll start worrying about what they’d do if you were unable to continue working with them.
The key phrase is meeting your deadlines. If there’s even a chance that your client might notice you aren’t 100%, you’ll want to tell them you’re feeling under the weather.
5. Eventually come clean to everyone
Even if you’ve continued to meet your deadlines, chances are people around you have noticed that you’re less responsive or working odd hours. Once you know what’s up, it’s a good idea to let those you work with most closely know, so they aren’t left wondering (as we know, imaginations can come up with all kinds of kooky ideas).
For example, there was a time when I was feeling really crummy and, after a period of uncertainty, it was determined I had a (treatable) significant B12 deficiency. Once I knew where I stood, I was able to fill people in on why I had been out of it.
6. Take steps to prevent health issues before they start
Though some medical situations can’t be prevented, we know that stress is a factor in many maladies. The mind-body connection is something we solos ignore at our peril – science has stated definitively that we need vacations. Your business depends on it.
If you’ve ever encountered challenging situations due to an illness or emergency, please let us know how you weathered that period in the comments!