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  • Joie Grandbois

Managing your business when illness strikes

Taking the time to heal is necessary.

In the fall of 2019, I found myself facing unexpected health issues that necessitated my stepping away from work for a time. As a business owner, a new business owner at that, this was a daunting prospect and raised many questions. How could I continue to support our clients while I was dealing with my health? How would I deal with new client contacts?

And there was a bit of fear too. Would I lose potential clients because I was not available to them? How far behind would my work fall while I was managing my recovery? Would people think less of me for not keeping up?

I am very lucky that I have a great business partner (hat tip to Darcy) who was able to step in to manage most aspects of the business, as well as a community that provided a lot of personal support. But whether you are a solo entrepreneur, have a business partner, or are the CEO of a large company, having to take time off to deal with a health issue or any other unexpected emergency can be daunting. Our culture seems to value busyness and productivity above all else which can create a lot of anxiety when we find ourselves having to step away for even a short time.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you are trying to put a plan in place for the possibility of dealing with an absence, if you know you will need to take time off, or if the event is completely unexpected there are steps you can take to make sure that your business will be okay while you take time to heal.

1. Commit to your healing. This might seem obvious, but so many of us push ourselves beyond what our bodies can handle when we are healthy, so stopping to take care of yourself and your health can bring up things like the fear of letting people down, or not being seen as productive. But as your self-care coordinator I am here to say that YOU are valuable, and so is your health. You will be of greater service to yourself and your clients if you take the time to make sure you recover well.

2. Let people know. Don’t try to hide your health issues. You don’t need to share the details of what is going on but do let people know you are dealing with a health crisis and will be stepping a way for a time. Emailing or calling your clients to let them know when you are leaving and when you may likely be back will help you and them with planning. You can shift due dates for non-critical projects and seek assistance for more immediate ones.

Email Tip: Set up your out of office assistant on your email (this can also be called a vacation responder, or autoreply depending upon your email client). Be sure to include the start date of your absence, your expected return (if you know it), and who to contact if something vitally important arises.

3. Get help. Asking for help at the best of times is difficult but getting assistance while you are recuperating will mean that both you and your clients are taken care of. If you have an assistant, virtual or otherwise, that you have been working with your task will be a bit easier as you can pass many of your day to day tasks off to them, ask them to manage your client communications, and keep your social media accounts, website, etc., up to date.

If you don’t have an assistant, see if you can find someone who is willing to take some of these tasks on while you are recuperating. It will likely cost you some money, but in the long run it will pay off in peace of mind and client retention.

4. Be realistic. Allow yourself time to heal and recover. You don’t want to return to work too soon and find yourself facing health setbacks. This was the most difficult for me. The moment I started to feel better I wanted to jump right back into work, but I knew that I didn’t have energy or stamina to do so. Taking a little more time allowed me to be at my best when I was finally able to return to work.

5. Be proactive. The best time to make plans for an absence is before the crisis arrives. Take a couple of hours to review your day to day workflow and see what things you might be able to hand off to someone in your absence. This can be helpful not just for health emergencies but also for going on vacation or taking a day off to chaperone you child’s field trip or just taking a mental health day.

Health crises are difficult enough without worrying about your business while you are recuperating. Having a plan in place can help you focus on your healing, so you can get back to your business and all of the other things you love.

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