Construction is hard work and often involves long hours at work, sometimes lengthy commutes, and some projects even require that we spend nights away from home. We may leave home in the dark and return when after sundown. Often the kids are already tucked up in bed when we get home, or certainly, we’ve missed dinner with the family.
It’s important that everyone gets time off, time to escape from work, time to enjoy with our families. Many of us think that we’re indispensable to the project and company, but if you organize things properly there’s no reason you can’t escape the project for a few days. Anyway, after a few days away from work you’ll come back refreshed, recharged and more productive (especially if you limit, or even eliminate, emails and telephone calls while you’re away).
Not having time off will lead to health problems and it could result in family quarrels, problems at home and family unhappiness. This will impact your work, leading to lower productivity and even safety issues when you’re distracted by these problems. Regrettably, the construction industry has one of the highest rates of marriage breakups, mental health problems, stress-related illnesses, and suicides.
Of course, your team also requires time off work. They also need time with their families. They need a rest. But this must be managed so that nobody abuses the system, frequently taking time off and disrupting the progress of the project.
Time off for illness
Ill health can strike even the healthiest of us. This may simply be a cold or flu. Unfortunately, some are more prone to ill health than others.
Some illnesses are contagious, so having somebody coughing and sneezing their way around the office is sure to make others sick. It doesn’t take long for there to be a mini-epidemic on the project and suddenly there are half a dozen absent from work. If you’re sick, stay at home.
People who are ill are often on medication. Some medications can make you drowsy, and you certainly don’t want to be sleepwalking around the project – there will be an accident. Certain drugs can impair vision or slow reflexes, which could lead to accidents.
But as you know, when you’re feeling ill you’re not exactly enthusiastic about work, you’re tired and feeling horrible, so your productivity is reduced. Things take longer to get done. You make mistakes. Just how effective are you at work when you’re sick? How effective is a sick person in your crew? Stay at home when you’re sick. If somebody in the crew is sick they should rather stay at home.
Failing to take proper rest while you’re sick often means that you take longer to recuperate. But, worse, if you’re not careful the infection could spread through your body. Your simple dose of flu could spread to your chest and suddenly you have pneumonia, which will send you to the hospital, and in the worst case even kill you.
We like to think that we’re tough and we act the martyr and soldier on at work, no matter how sick we are. But, is this really fair to our fellow workers who could catch our infection? Is this a wise course of action, or a folly that could risk our lives and the lives of others around us.
A few days off work to recuperate from an illness may be just what you need to get better. The project won’t collapse without you, but it could be severely jeopardized if your condition worsens and you end up in hospital missing weeks of work.
Sometimes we have health problems that we suffer through and don’t get treated. We should go for an operation, see a doctor, or get special treatment. The cost of these treatments is the primary reason that we avoid getting the problem sorted. Then there’s the time away from work and usually the fear of doctors and hospitals which makes us stall the treatment. So we live with the pain of a bad knee, the inconvenience of an eye problem, the discomfort of a small ulcer, or whatever. Of course, the problem isn’t going to fix itself and it’s only going to become worse and a bigger problem to treat. Get the problem sorted before it gets worse and is more difficult and more expensive to fix.
Compassionate and family leave
From time to time, unfortunately, there are family health problems. Your mother, father, partner or kids could suddenly be taken ill, or need to be taken to the doctor. Are you going to be there to support them when you’re needed at home? Sure you can’t take time off work for every visit to the dentist or doctor, but serious family illness and emergencies will need your help. In an emergency, your partner will require support and comforting.
Most companies have policies regarding when you can take time off, how many days you can take off, and whether the time is paid or not. Paid sick leave may be limited to a specified number of days in the year. If it’s not used in the year it’s usually forfeited. If you’ve used all the paid sick days you’re entitled to, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take time off when you’re sick, it only means that these extra days won’t be paid. Of course, most companies usually demand to see proof that you were actually sick.
Companies allocate a number of paid vacation days. Usually, these days can be accumulated to the next year if they’re not used. But, that really defeats the object of vacation days, which are days to rest and days to spend time with your family. Maybe consider taking a vacation day next time your kid has a birthday or plays in a big game. Do you know how many vacation days are due to you? The one thing I always did was take all the vacation days due to me, and even additional unpaid vacation time. My vacation was always important to me and I made sure I spent it far from work – yet none of my projects suffered.
Of course never be the Grinch that refuses your employees time off, or who forces them to come to work even when they’re really sick.
When did you last have a vacation? Have you recently spent quality time with your family?