Small Businesses vs. The Common Cold

Here’s something you won’t hear discussed in business school.  It’s an unpredictable and very real problem that we’ve encountered consistently over the years.  While it’s something we’ve discussed quite a bit, we’ve never been able to improve upon our “solution.”  What problem you ask? Everyone in the company getting sick at the same time.

In retrospect this has actually been less of a problem for us than I’d imagine it is at most small businesses.  Because roughly half of our team is working from home on any given day, and because we’re all relatively healthy and sanitary, we tend  not to be sick all that often, and when someone does get sick we just make sure they stay at home until they’re better.

The problem of course lies in that many times you’re at your most contagious when you are just starting to show symptoms, and if that happens while you’re at the warehouse around other employees…well it can spiral out of control quickly.

Back in early 2009 Mike was on vacation and the rest of us all got a nasty cold, leaving us rotating through the “least sick people” on any given day to go in and pack orders.  I briefly mentioned it back then in a post about my productivity lacking. We’ve always used that as an example of why we should all be cognizant of the ramifications of getting someone else in the business sick, and for the most part we’ve been able to avoid the dreaded company-wide illness.

Of course, I’m writing about this now because we’re potentially in the midst of it happening right now.  We’re also in the midst of one of our busiest warehouse weeks of the year, Detailed Image’s Spring Sale.  In some ways this is crazier than Black Friday through Cyber Monday because we’re concurrently stocking up for our busy months ahead, creating a lot more laborious warehouse work aside from packing boxes.  At a minimum it’s our second busiest week of the year, one that we want to come out of ahead of the game because the tone we set this week has a big impact on the efficiency of the warehouse throughout the spring and summer.  We’re either ahead of the game or we’re playing catch-up for months.

It started last week when my partner Greg started to get sick.  He’s been putting extra time in at the warehouse to train our new full-time employe Reece.  By the end of the week, he had gotten our operations manager Charlie sick and Greg had come down with a sinus infection.  I’m hoping that’s where it ends and the rest of us stay healthy.

Charlie is arguably the most important component in making things go smooth on a week like this because he runs the show in the warehouse.  Keep in mind that we’re already a little short-staffed as it is because our future full-time employee Bobby is wrapping up his last semester in college and has been so busy that he hasn’t been able to put in his usual part-time hours.

So, it’s been a little hectic to say the least.  I put in a full long day of warehouse work (pulling orders, packing boxes, unloading incoming shipments) today from about 7 AM – 4 PM and man am I worn out.  Tomorrow’s schedule is still up in the air depending upon how everyone is feeling.  Hopefully Mike, Reece, and I continue to avoid the cold or things could get real dicey.

1 comment on Small Businesses vs. The Common Cold

  1. Tim says:

    ahhh ahhh ahhh choooo!! Oh sorry, damn cold!

    I have to say that is one thing I like about working from home, I NEVER get sick. I have minimal interaction with the dirty public and a super immune system so I often go years without catching a sniffle. My fear is that my immune system will become weak and I may pay the price down the road, but it also could go the other way as well, time will tell.

    In the past this was a HUGE problem, when you have a 7-12 person organization and a few get sick, everyone gets sick and there’s not a thing you can do about it. You mentally aren’t “there” physically you’re severely diminished, it’s just a bad situation and if it lasts more than a week it’s literally hell on Earth.

    I hope everyone makes a speedy recovery.

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