Accommodating Personal Staff Needs in IT

There is an old expression that says, “People should work-to-live, not live-to-work.” And, even though it can feel counterintuitive, allowing time off for a technical team member to take care of personal needs can actually result in higher production in IT.

So, my advice is that, upon occasion, and within certain bounds, you allow an IT employee’s personal life to take precedent over their job. The concept here is that if you have a good employee who is working through a difficult family, personal, or health issue you should do your best help him or her out.

Assisting an IT employee in their time of need has the following benefits.

  • As a human being, it feels really good to be able to really help someone.
  • It builds incredible loyalty from the employee toward you, the IT department, and the company
  • It may save a good technical contributor from leaving your department and the firm to take care of the issue thereby affecting your IT retention management strategy.
  • People talk. The other members of your IT team will know you did something to help a colleague. This in turn will increase the team’s loyalty to you.
  • At a future time, when extra time or effort is needed to meet an IT deadline, your team will be there for you because you were there for them.

Given the dependence upon IT in companies today, this last point can be particularly valuable to you when thorny issues or emergencies occur as they often do. This positive attitude in your department can be a real strategic advantage for your group and therefore your company and enhance your reputation as having superior IT management skills.

Over the years as an IT executive and CIO, I have occasionally had a team member ask me for help. One person asked if she could take two-hour lunches for a couple of months until she found new long term care for her elderly mother. Due to her mother’s health issues, her current facility could no longer meet her heeds. In additional to dealing with the emotions relating to her mother’s declining health, it also caused major logistical problems for the employee. She said she would make up the time by coming in early and I could see that, for a time, this could be managed. Not only did she come in early every day, but she often stayed late just to make sure that all her work was completed. Based on her coming and going that I observed, it seemed to me that she worked about two hours for every one hour she was out.

As they say, “No good turn goes unpunished”. Therefore, when helping a member of your IT team in this way, consider the following.

  • Talk to your boss and Human Resources (HR) first to make sure that you are acting in a way that is consistent with company policy
  • Of course, make sure you are comfortable it does not jeopardize a strategic IT project or pose undue risk for IT operational requirements
  • Be clear it is a one-of-a-kind event, not as an ongoing favor
  • Agree upon a specified length of time, with a specific end-date
  • Be careful that you are not setting an IT department or company precedent
  • You don’t want to be seen as playing favorites or bending company rules
  • If an employee asks “Why won’t you do this for me, you did it for Larry?” you will have to answer it honestly and with valid reasoning.

For additional information on today’s topic, ask your HR department if your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that can guide you in making this type of IT departmental decision.