I received a positive COVID-19 test result on December 9th. I was working from home and had avoided socializing for months, but the virus reached me through my daughter’s kindergarten.
Staying isolated for a couple of weeks wasn’t going to be a problem. Still, the timing for getting sick was unfortunate. Everyone who has ever led a company knows how hectic the end of the year can be. Budget planning, yearly reports, and employee review meetings can be stressful even when you’re healthy, let alone when you’re ailing.
It was already enough of a challenge to lead a rapidly growing company with all my team working from home. It became a gargantuan task when I found that I was COVID-19 positive.
Despite being ill, I wasn’t able to completely “switch off” from managing my company. DeskTime is a productivity tracking software that has seen its user count tripled since the start of the pandemic. Ironically, COVID-19 brought us a growth spurt – and here I was, suffering from the disease myself.
How I Managed My Growing Company While Being COVID-19 Positive
Here, I want to share the attitudes that helped me stay sane while juggling health issues and a rapidly growing company from my home.
1. Being honest with my team
I hadn’t met any team members, or partners face to face for a while, so I didn’t need to worry about having infected someone. However, I wanted to be honest with my employees and let them know what was going on.
My team received the news of my illness with understanding and support. I think my honesty urged them to be even more empathic and take up extra tasks to unburden my schedule.
My main symptoms were fever, an intense headache, sensitivity to light, and a slight cough. I lost my sense of taste and smell for around ten days, and the cough lingered for five days.
The headache and fever stayed for three days, and that was the hardest time. During these days, I could only join in on video calls with our business partners via audio – I couldn’t participate, just listen. I’m thankful to my team managers who took over the meeting moderation process from me.
Working-while-sick couldn’t have worked if I hadn’t been honest with my team and told them that I would need their help and support for an unknown period — because no one could tell how long this disease would linger.
2. Setting priorities and delegating
I was sick, and I was stressed about it, and I had a hectic month ahead of me. My Google Calendar was merciless — from December 9 to 22, I had 32 meetings scheduled. I had to do some serious prioritizing in order to take care of my own health while not abandoning my responsibilities as CEO.
Clearing my schedule
I cleared my schedule of everything that didn’t absolutely require my involvement. As a result, I worked three to four hours a day. As my first priority, I wanted to be (virtually) present in all employee annual evaluation meetings. I also could not postpone finalizing the company budget for 2021.
I decided to delegate yearly review meetings with outsourced employees and agencies to the team managers. As for accounting and other paperwork, I moved it to the bottom of my priority list. This “maintenance mode” helped me stay afloat without falling too far behind on critical tasks.
Seeing how efficiently I could delegate in times of need made me appreciate my team even more. I believe this trust shouldn’t be taken for granted – it’s a foundation for success in any company.
3. Being prepared
We live in times when anyone could get sick, so it’s better to have systems in place so that work is not disrupted in case a manager – or even the CEO – suddenly needs time off.
My company didn’t come to a standstill due to my illness because we’ve all been working and communicating remotely for almost a year now. Each team member has their yearly and monthly goals, and everyone knows their tasks.
We kept each other up to date thanks to regular team calls and company-wide online meetings. Regardless of whether the boss is sick or healthy, the well-oiled machine can power onwards and work never stops.
4. Nurturing a healthy and supportive company culture
Being sick and confined to the house made me realize what matters most – the happiness and well-being of the people on my team. We had been working remotely since the pandemic began in order to stay safe and prevent spreading the virus. But could I do more to reassure my team and support their well-being?
Keep a remote and hybrid work format ready
It’s now clear to us that we will keep a remote or a hybrid work format even after the pandemic. Our team has embraced the work from home model; in summer, we worked from our summer houses and even while traveling around the country.
In addition, I’m supporting healthy team-building initiatives, like a calorie-burning challenge with a traveling trophy. I also encourage my team members to plan flexible workdays, including a walk or a run during work hours.
Our own time tracking software lets us keep an eye on how many hours we’ve worked each day, allowing us to follow our individual progress and fill in the necessary work hours when we feel most productive.
COVID-19 – a catalyst for change
Since I only felt very ill for three days, my team didn’t feel my absence. But COVID and other illnesses hang on longer. Now I can say I was lucky to get through the illness with relative ease. However, this time was full of emotional tension, and I came out of it with changed priorities and eye-opening conclusions.
COVID-19 applied the breaks on the world, but it reminded us about different work formats that may be a key to better work-life balance for many people.
If a year ago remote work was only a trendy perk some employers could choose to offer; now we’re successfully working from home and other places where we feel safe and comfortable.
With the right mindset, who knows how many more life-enhancing things we can accomplish in the near future?
Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels; thank you