The coronavirus SARS-COVID 19 is turning to a pandemic. Daily statistics are reported by national and international goverments, the World Health Organisation WHO and medical institutions like the John Hopkins CSSE . Today, I would like to tackle the responsibility of leaders to care about their employees. It comes down to sacrifice short-term for long-term thinking.

Sickness and work

While I am writing this lines, the first coronavirus dead is reported in the USA, Italy has more than a thousand infections and overall worldwide there are nearly 3000 deaths. 

I would like to take this serious matter into account for a general opinion about sickness and work. I think that in any circumstances – if a person is ill – and even just with a cold – they should stay at home. Yes, there is always this feeling like “without me nothing goes on – I am crucial”. But the world keeps on turning. Always and even without you. 

And if by any chance, you are the only person that can do your job, your boss did something wrong. I have written once an article about unique competences and on about redundancy checks by an Failure Tree Analysis (FTA). Both articles state that one should always plan back-ups. If there is no backup, your boss did a terrible job in developing his employees.

Long-term and wellfare

If you come to your job sick, it will be likely that you infect others. Even if they still come, there work will be inefficient. The only counter measures in Wuhan and Italy is quarantine to minimize the ping pong spreading of the virus.

In Germany, we have something which is losely translated as the “duty for wellfare”(Fürsorgepflicht). The employer has to take care of his employees which means to not harm them directly or indirectly. For me, forcing persons to come along is directly harming when they are ill. Still, it is an indirect harming of all other persons around. In long-term, the risk of losing more people to the cold is high. From a business point of view and a humanitarian point of view, it is necessary to send ill people home – even if they want to come. The game of business goes on, tomorrow, next week, next month. We need the person back with full capacities. If he or she does errors due to their state of mind, it will make everything more difficult.

I remember in my career to send people home twice while they were sick. I always considered it to be the right decision. And I took the extra effort on me to find backup solutions. I think that this is the duty of a leader.

Please take care of yourself and of others and stay healthy. Thorsten.

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