When you plan to go on holiday you have ample time to ensure your clients and projects are well-looked after by others. However, when you are sick, everything in your world stops, but all things in your client's world - including deadlines and requirements - keep going.
An account manager taking a sick day is similar to a teacher taking a sick day; before you are "allowed" to be sick, you have to create your "lesson plan" for the "substitute teacher" to follow. Only then may you collapse at your leisure.
The unfortunate reality is that there is no ideal time for an account manager to be sick, and because you daily juggle 101 balls in the air, you have to be prepared for at least some of those balls to drop. So, what can you do to help mitigate the damage?
- Become mobile: Trade in your desktop computer for a laptop. If you have to keep working, a laptop will allow you to work comfortably from your bed.
- No laptop? At the very least you should be able to link your email and essential information to a smartphone to help you monitor your messages.
- Email smarts: Put an out-of-office message on your email explaining you are off sick. Saying you are sick creates sympathy and understanding from clients, unlike saying you are on "annual leave" or simply "out of the office". You may also like to put one of your colleague's contact details in your reply email, so if a matter is urgent, your client will feel like they can talk to someone prior to your return.
- Remote access: Check with your IT Manager to see if your agency's network will allow you to access your working files remotely - which is incredibly handy if you have to keep working from home.
- Calendar check: Cancel or defer all your appointments. It's easy to forget your calendar when your head can't leave the pillow, but your colleagues and clients will appreciate it - especially those who might be travelling a fair distance for your non-existent meeting.
- Deadline check: Assess the vital tasks that have to be attended to over the next couple of days and tee up someone else to do these things for you (or ask your clients if they can be postponed).
- Communication: If you have pressing projects, then at least inform your most-affected clients that you are at home sick. You should also let them know what Plan B is, and who their contact person will be in your absence.
- Thanking the team: If you have had to lean heavily on your colleagues, then do thank them for their help and for coping with the added pressure you had to place on them. A gift of chocolate always goes down well.
- Get better: Easier said than done, but better you take a couple of days off and get well, than try to soldier on and remain sick for longer than necessary.
- Is your sickness self-inflicted? Sometimes getting sick is our body's way of saying "enough is enough". You may have been working yourself too hard, too stressed, hours too long, with not enough decent food or rest. Take some time to recoup and self-assess.
Dropping the ball: Some things may end up falling through the cracks, but don't beat yourself up about it. Sickness happens, and - thankfully - most clients are quite understanding. When you get back to work, try and catch up on your missed days as soon as you can, prioritising your missed tasks with new tasks. Your to-do list and your email inbox should help you figure out where to direct your attention..
Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.
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