Why You Should Let Employees Leave Work to Visit the Dentist
James Marsh tweeted me the following question: "What is the most reasonable way to treat requests for time off during office hours to attend scheduled doctors appointments?"
My response, "approve them all unless there is a massive problem. How often are your people going to the doctor?" This was probably predictable in that I constantly preach that you should judge employees based on their performance and not based on their time in seat anyway.
Well, it turns out that Marsh was on my side, but some executives wanted employees to make all their doctor's appointments early in the morning and on weekends. My thought: What planet are these executives living in? Is there a secret number you can call to get all those early morning appointments?
Of course there's not. (Well, there are concierge physician groups, but let's be honest, most of us take whatever appointment our doctor's office can give us.) And if you need to see a specialist? That appointment may be weeks or months out and if you don't snap it up, you won't get it at all.
This is an example of an unreasonable demand that businesses make of their employees. If an employee's trips to the doctor ends up impacting performance, then you start talking about scheduling of appointments, but until that point, when someone says, "I have a doctor's/dentist/physical therapist appointment on Tuesday at 10 a.m.," you say, "okay, see you when you get back."
The average employee makes three trips to the doctor per year. So, even if your employee is gone for two hours, per trip, we're talking about six hours per year. Do you want to alienate your good employees over six hours out of an entire year?
And what if they take more? While businesses subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can put reasonable restrictions around times for leave, they have to be reasonable. Sometimes requiring people to see doctors first thing in the morning is unreasonable because those appointments are just simply not always available.
Now, doctor's appointments are pretty necessary if you want your workers to be healthy and happy, but there are other appointments that happen this way too. For instance, meetings with school teachers, furniture deliveries, cable or internet repairs, tax preparers, etc. Sometimes, these things just have to happen during business hours. Instead of getting into a snit when someone needs to take a couple hours out of the middle of the day, think about all the things that person has done to help your business.
Of course you want your employees to be in the office, on time, and working hard. (Or at home, working hard when you expect them to be.) But, good bosses understand that life happens. And sometimes, life requires a trip to the doctor at 2:30 p.m.
SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.