How to Plan for Staff Emergencies

Emergency pull

by Jessi Burg

If you run a business, you know to expect the unexpected. Inevitably, at some point in time, you and your team members are going to have emergencies. You’re also going to want to take a vacation. This week, we’re going to talk about planning for time off, whether it’s expected or not.

Whether someone gets sick, injured, or has personal stuff going on, the idea is the same. Every one of your staff members should be able to take time off without it disrupting the efficiency of the company. From a company perspective, you also want to make sure that if one of your employees moves away from your company, you’ll be able to run without that position while you hire. 

This can be difficult to manage with a small business, particularly if you’re a one man show or you only have a few employees. But however difficult it may seem, preparing for the worst ahead of time will be a game changer for you when the worst actually does happen. 

Here are a few ways to ensure that everyone in your organization, including you, can take time off.

Cross-Training Strategies

There should not be one single access point of information anywhere in your organization. For example, if one of your employees sends out the weekly email newsletter, you want to make sure that there’s accessible information to allow someone else to send it in the case that that person is out of the office. The same goes for all of the tasks in your business, like answering the phones, scheduling, project managing, etc.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

SOPs are the written, step by step instructions you keep on file detailing how to do a designated task. The document should detail each individual step to avoid any room for error when the task is being duplicated by someone new. SOPs should be written by the employee who is the expert in that area, and who you trust to train others on how to do it right.

Divide Up Responsibilities

We tend to think that cross training someone means that an employee is expected to know how to do somebody else’s entire job on a whim. But really, it just means that they’ve been trained in that area and are capable of picking up the slack if need be. If everyone is cross trained, then the tasks of an out of office employee can be divided up amongst a few people if necessary.


If an out of office employee has been working on a lengthy project, putting the project on hold for a couple of days shouldn’t derail the process. If it’s something that can wait, and will take pressure and stress off of your other employees, then prioritize the more pressing tasks first.

Utilize Your Processes 

Having SOPs won’t matter unless you actually put them to use. When someone is out of office, try not to call them to ask about the details of their job. Fill in the blanks using the processes you already built. That way, if they want to take a two week vacation, they can do so without being pestered by work.

Adjust Your Expectations

When someone does a job every day, they become much more proficient at it. If that employee takes a few days off, it’s likely that the person filling in won’t be as skilled in those areas. It’s okay if things move a little slower for that period of time, or if there are other tasks that need to be postponed. The key is not expecting your company to do the same quantity and quality of work with 4 people as it did with 5.

With SOPs and a solid cross training process, if an employee decides to leave your company, you don’t have to count on them to quickly train other employees once they are gone. Having one person with most of the capabilities and information that holds your company together is a recipe for disaster.

Let’s say you are the sole employee in your business. Are there contractors you can hire to help offload some of your work if you need a couple days off? Do you have a method of communication set up for your clients when you’re gone? Nobody likes being left in the dark! 

As a solo-preneur, make sure that you have pre-existing methods of communication to let your clients know what’s going on. You can use your vacation responder to tell them the plan for their project, who they can reach out to in the meantime, how long you will be out of the office, etc. As long as they know you are gone and what your expected return date is, you’re much less likely to run into issues. 

No one plans for an emergency, but you and your employees should be able to take time off while communicating with clients and coworkers about what the expectations are. 

For extra information and resources, drop into one of our Co-Working & Office Hours sessions to discuss ways to emergencies within your business!

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