The Coronavirus and Your Workload

The UK is predicting that 1 in 5 people may be out sick at the same time, which means more work for everyone else.

Published: Mar 17, 2020

As the number of people infected by the coronavirus continues to climb, workplaces across the world are bracing for hit. That’s because many staffers may be unable to work in the coming weeks—the UK is warning that up to 20% of the workforce may be out sick with the virus at any given time. And though there haven’t been many layoffs yet, industries like travel and hospitality that are hit particularly hard by the global shutdown are at risk of needing to tighten the belt.

Between these two factors, your boss may ask you to take on extra work without much notice, and you need to be prepared. Read on for our best tips for how those remaining at work can keep things afloat at the office and take care of themselves in the process.

Proactively discuss with your boss what the company’s biggest priorities are, and which ones can fall by the wayside due to the crisis.

Don't just take everything that falls on your plate.
Top performers are going to be the ones who are depended on most in situations like this, but if you’re already working more than 50 hours a week, weigh your additional capacity carefully. It’s scientifically proven that working over 50 hours a week is counterproductive. “There’s a difference between being helpful and having to be the person who always says yes,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

Consider the following factors in your life and yourself before you accept more work:

-- Overall health

-- Current stress level

-- Commitments and responsibilities outside of work

-- Level of difficulty of your work

-- Level of commitment to the organization itself (do you plan on leaving in three months, for example?)

-- Skill set, knowledge, and experience

-- Overall capacity to do the work that might be assigned to you

“It’s important to realize that you always have choices, even when it doesn’t feel like you do,” Olson says. Even if you’ve taken on extra responsibilities, build in margins between tasks for breaks and nutritious meals. And never sacrifice sleep for work, if you can help it.

Minimize distractions to maintain productivity.
Many companies are asking their employees to work from home for a few weeks. But for workers used to an office environment, being at home provides a host of distractions, the least of which is wiping down every surface in your home.

Career experts suggest using productivity apps to limit time on social media, closing the door to the room you’re working in, and letting others in your household know when you’re working.

“Until you’re used to the rhythm of remote work, try to act as if you can’t just take an hour break to do the dishes or catch up on the latest news report,” Olson says. “Once you have your remote routines down, you can flex some on your hours.”

Working parents have the biggest challenge, now that most schools nationwide are closed. If you can afford to hire childcare, do. You’ll have the peace of mind that your child’s welfare is taken care of, while supporting an industry that will be disproportionately hurt by the virus-induced economic shutdown.

But most parents can’t expect to have a distraction-free work schedule and give good care to their children. “There will be a lot of juggling,” Olson says. Talk to your boss about the expectations around working hours, because time flexibility doesn’t always automatically come with location flexibility.

Keep the corporate vision front and center.
With an increased workload, there will be things that need your attention ASAP and things that don't. If you’re not aligned with the vision when there's so much to be done and in such chaotic circumstances, there are bigger ramifications.

Proactively discuss with your boss what the company’s biggest priorities are, and which ones can fall by the wayside due to the crisis. Then think about which projects you are best suited to handle well. “It could be a career risk to take on something that is way out of your league,” Olson says. “But on the other hand, being part of a reduced workforce could give you a chance to shine and show what you’re capable of achieving.”

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