I just had a son, my second, born three weeks ago. It was a day before his due date and I was working away, as usual, on several projects and tasks that needed to be completed before any babies could be born. That’s when I got the phone call. I had to run home, frantically load everything into the car, and race to the hospital where our son was born only half an hour after our arrival.
When you are working in a small business environment every person counts, especially when you bill by the hour. When you temporarily lose an employee to jury duty, illness, or in my case, a new baby, you also lose money. And when that person returns to work, it can take several days to get caught up to where they left off. You can plan for things like vacations and conferences, but unexpected interruptions are disruptive to the day-to-day workflow.
Having been yanked from my chair unexpectedly, I had left a wake of incomplete tasks and scheduled meetings. To our clients, it might have seemed I’d gone AWOL.
Fortunately, we have integrated online project management software into our web design and development business at Pelago. Everything I had been working on was centralized in one place. As a small business that has struggled through a shortage of employees in the past, it was a huge relief to have an online tool set up. My most recent workload, as fragmented as it may have been, was all documented in a collaboration-friendly manner.
Our project manager swiftly distributed my higher priority workload to our other employees and rescheduled lower priority tasks for my return. Meanwhile, I was kept on as an assignee for each of my responsibilities. Every time a task was updated, I was notified via email. I was also able to knock out smaller tasks from my remote office in between diaper changes and naps.
When I returned to the office two weeks later, I was already caught up with what was going on during my absence. I’d been following the flow of information for two weeks, even jumping in a few times to put out a few small fires. But I couldn’t have done it without the collaborative features of our online project management software. I was very fortunate to take two weeks off to be with my new son.
A final word of caution. Don’t rely too heavily on an online project management tool to keep you in the loop. There are plenty of times where you need to get off the grid and decompress. While these tools are powerful and useful, they can be abused. That is why we have vacations and holidays. Take advantage of your personal time off when you can, but know that when unexpected rifts appear in the fabric of a small business, online project management tools can help keep it all together.