When Ed came into my office and started talking, I was surprised at what he said. His father had a medical emergency the evening before and Ed was obviously distraught. Since his dad lived 5 states away, his mind was with his dad even if he couldn’t be. He had come to give me a heads-up that he probably wouldn’t be giving his best self to his job today.
But it wasn’t his father’s medical emergency that I found most startling. I was shocked by Ed’s own potential medical emergency. Ed’s face and eyes were yellow and I could see what he hadn’t yet been to a mirror to see: He was in the throws of full-on jaundice. When I asked how his stomach felt, he said he didn’t feel well, but he thought that was worry for his father. Off to the hospital we went, where Ed had urgent surgery to remove his gallbladder as well as stones from his bile ducts.
All Sorts of Things Prevent Us From Being Available
“Availability” is a key concept in employee engagement. It’s the idea that if something is standing in the way of an employee investing their best self in their work, then their best work won’t happen. Clearly, that’s not the best thing for the business or the customer. But here’s the thing – it’s not the best thing for the employee, either. Low engagement, regardless of the cause, can lead to low job satisfaction and eventually leaving the job.
And there are such an incredible number of things that can prevent a person from being “available” to invest their best self. Ed’s example is at the extreme end of the spectrum.
Much simpler on-the-job things that prevent availability include things like:
- Not having the right tools
- Not having the right training, skills, or abilities
- Lacking safety to share opinions, or to try in the face of risk of failure
- A feeling of isolation or not being “part of the team”
Personal things that prevent availability include:
- Concerns about child care
- Personal or family health concerns
- Schedule conflicts
These types of issues are the reasons why it’s effective for businesses to invest in health care, employee assistance programs, and the like.
Lack of availability, whatever the cause, robs a person’s energy and attention and keeps them from focusing on the job. In many jobs, this means a hit to the bottom line and the potential for a sour employee that rubs off negatively on others. But in some businesses, like the construction trades, the lack of focus that comes with lack of availability can mean an increased risk to life and limb.
How Do You Check for Availability?
Is “Availability” something you think about and check for with your staff? If so, do you check for physical availability, mental availability, or both? Do you mostly think of it as your job to provide the physical resources and training your employees need? Or do you see it as critical to provide health care and employee assistance in order to support employees with personal issues that might impact availability?