How do project managers deal with unplanned leaves?

Last updated on November 3, 2021

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A firm’s workforce is the major asset for the organization. Your project’s success and business profitability rely on their talent and performance. It’s therefore imperative for project managers to ensure their well-being to deliver the projects on time and within budget.

Productivity and the work-etiquette of your resources decide the fate of your projects. For instance, if a highly-skilled employee takes a leave unexpectedly during the course of a project, it will hamper the project’s progress. Moreover, if other tasks are dependent on this one, it will have a domino effect bringing the project to a stop.

Apart from the accounted sick and planned leaves, if you observe prolonged absenteeism, then it is a matter of concern. The reason behind this can be either personal or professional. It’s the job of the project manager to find out the root cause and implement the right measures to avoid unscheduled absenteeism.

This article explains in-depth the effects, causes, and ways to tackle unplanned leaves at the workplace.

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At first, let us understand its impact on the project’s health,

1. How does unplanned absenteeism affect the project’s health?

A project is divided into various tasks that are mostly dependent on each other. For example, let’s say you are working on a software development project. From, designing the prototype to coding and testing the product, every task relies on the other’s progress. If you don’t have an initial design ready, you can’t code, and if you don’t have a code, you can’t test it.

Now that we know every task is crucial and is critically dependent on the other one, imagine your coder (resource) suddenly went on leave for a long time. With no backup plan in place, your project’s progress is restricted causing unnecessary delays and budget overrun.

In some situations, project managers might overload another resource with the same task to keep the project going. It will cause overutilization and lead to employee burnout affecting the resource’s health index.

In a nutshell, unplanned absences have a cascading effect on the project’s progress, timeline, and finances eventually impacting the overall profitability.

effects-of-low-productivity

So, what are the causes of these leaves?

2. Causes of unplanned leaves

Employees can take off for both personal and professional reasons. The personal reasons entail sickness, a pressing family matter, bereavement, and stress. In such cases, it’s the job of the manager to be supporting and understanding to help their employees cope better.

Personal reasons are not concerning as long as resources are back in time. However, if professional reasons are causing the absenteeism, then managers need to jump in and take charge. Here is a list of possible reasons,

    • Employee burnout
      This is one of the major causes of increased absenteeism. If the resource is overloaded with work and has to meet unrealistic deadlines, it will lead to burnout.A Deloitte study states that “nearly 30% of the burnout is caused due to impractical deadlines or expectations.

      In turn, they will start skipping work days and take unscheduled leaves.

 

    • Lower morale and motivation
      Employees feel motivated and engage better when their work is acknowledged and rewarded. In case, this is missing, it will naturally make them feel undervalued and they will not feel like showing up to work.

 

    • Bullying or harassment
      If a resource experiences an unpleasant situation at the workplace where he/she is being pestered, they will want to avoid it by skipping workdays. This can be due to the absence of an anti-harassment cell or committee where employees can report the incidents.

 

  • Mismatched skillset
    Sometimes, employees’ skills, capabilities, and interests are not aligned with the projects they are assigned to. It can subsequently lead to disengagement, frustration, and ultimately be one of the main contributors to unplanned leaves.

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These are the most tangible reasons for unplanned leaves. As an employer, one must implement the right measures to provide an optimistic work environment and avoid these absences.

Here is how you can leverage a resource management tool to deal with unplanned absenteeism,

3. How can a resource management tool help with unscheduled absences?

Since employee burnout is one of the major causes of unplanned leaves, managers can employ an intuitive resource management tool to deal with it. Using the advanced features of the tool, resource managers can go ahead and manage the resources and their utilization levels effectively.

You can utilize the following functionalities of the tool to address this issue,

3.1 Optimizing resource utilization

Unscheduled absences reduce the overall capacity of the organization. In this situation, to keep the project on course, project managers end up overloading some resources. To refrain from doing so, managers can equip the tool and get a birds-eye view of the resources and the projects.

To allocate the work to another resource, you can go ahead and enter the requirements using advanced filters. This will give you the list of resources who are the right fit for the task along with their availability. You can now schedule the task for employees who have the bandwidth and will not be overallocated.

This process will help you optimize the utilization levels of each resource and ensure that no one is over or under-allocated.

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3.2 Create a backup plan for the critical tasks

The unannounced absences can be dealt with during the project planning stage as well. Every project has some critical tasks which cannot be stopped midway or it will bring the project to a standstill. When you are drawing out your project plan and scheduling resources for the tasks, you can create a backup plan for these critical ones.

Taking the same example of a software development project, managers can book a parked or generic resource for the coding task. In this case, if at all the coder goes on leave, you have a backup ready when you need one. It will keep the project going without causing any delays.

3.3 Keep a buffer during capacity planning

Often it happens where decision-makers load 100% of a resource’s capacity to one project itself. This is an impractical step as a resource might spend some time on admin tasks or other BAU activities. Instead of doing this, managers can take a smart step and load 50-60% of two or more employees’ availability to the critical task.

So, even when a resource booked for a critical task goes on leave, you have other resources with the same skillset to take up the job. This will save you from two hassles- for one, your project’s progress is not hampered and for two, you are saving your resources from getting overutilized.

Thus, intelligent scheduling and resource loading during the project planning stage can help you create a contingency plan for these times.

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This is how implementing a robust tool can help you tackle absenteeism. In addition to this, one can focus on minimizing the leaves by rethinking their managerial approach. Here are some tips on how to reduce unplanned absences at your workplace,

4. How to minimize unplanned absenteeism at the workplace?

4.1 Formulate a clear attendance policy

Documenting a crisp and clear attendance policy helps you to set some standards regarding absenteeism. It should include the following,

  • Kind of leaves available for employees
  • Rules related to paid and unpaid leaves
  • The process to apply for leave
  • Consequences for prolonged absenteeism
  • How the leaves are recorded in your firm

When your resources are aware of the rules and regulations your firm follows, they are likely to manage their calendar better.

How Do Project Managers Deal With Unplanned Leaves?

4.2 Invest in a physical and mental wellness program

Your workforce’s well-being has a direct impact on their productivity. Furthermore, when you put their health at the forefront, the workforce feels valued at the firm. Employers must therefore invest in a wellness program that can include free gym membership, free psychological consultation, regular health check-ups, or it can be even as small as curating a balanced lunch menu.

When employees are doing well and their health is taken care of, they are less likely to take unannounced sick leaves.

4.3 Avoid micromanagement and encourage autonomy

According to a study, 85% of employees said micromanagement negatively impacted their morale and 71% claimed it interfered with their performance. To keep this from happening, project managers should instill trust in their employees and let them manage their work.

When resources have the autonomy to carry out their tasks, they will work with all their might to reduce errors and ensure quality. On the other hand, if they are constantly told what to do, they will eventually lose interest and start taking leaves. Steve Jobs once said, ‘It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.’

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4.4 Provide flexible work policies

A better work-life balance is a top priority for employees these days. In fact, it plays a direct role in enhancing productivity and performance. When your workforce is able to work better while taking care of their personal life, inculcating a work-from-home policy will be a win-win for both.

Furthermore, managers should provide liberty to their employees to choose their tasks. For example, if you have two top-priority projects with the same resource demand, you can consider your employee’s task preference. These practices will make them feel heard and they will know their opinions matter. This eventually leads to better engagement and increases the work rate.

4.5 Build the right infrastructure for a better work environment

Your physical work environment impacts productivity as much as your work culture does. In fact, decision-makers are taking initiatives to improve their workplace and working conditions. Forbes says, 70% of employers have improved their physical environments to encourage healthy behaviors.

Thus, to promote a healthy and positive work environment, managers should restructure their workspaces.

Employees will feel empowered to work better and stick around when their well-being is your top priority.

4.6 Integrate IDP in your work policy

Every employee in your firm has certain goals and aspirations to excel in their career. When their goal aligns with the firm’s ultimate vision, they will engage themselves better. They expect that their development is taken into account while they are working for you. Every employee in your firm has certain goals and aspirations to excel in their career. When their goal aligns with the firm’s ultimate vision, they will engage themselves better. They expect that their development is taken into account while they are working for you.

It’s a manager’s duty to create Individual development plans to cater to your resource’s professional development. You can conduct regular one-on-ones to know about their future goals and plans. If your employees see their growth matters as much as your firm’s, they will stay with you for the long haul.

5. The Takeaway

The onus is on managers to keep their workforce inspired and motivated to help them perform better. This can be done at ease when you have the right mix of environment and culture. The above-mentioned tips will help you empower your workforce.

With your continuous efforts, your employees will be encouraged to turn up to work every day. Along with this, the right tool will help you deal with sudden leaves that are unavoidable. So, how have you been managing the unscheduled absenteeism so far?

6. The Saviom Solution

SAVIOM is no doubt the market leader in offering the most powerful and configurable Enterprise Resource Management Solution. Having more than 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence in over 50 countries. It is also popular with more than 100 customers and helping them to achieve their business goals. SAVIOM also has products for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software which can be easily customized as per business requirements.

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