What to do for a colleague in the hospital?
February 8, 2018 12:00 PM   Subscribe

My manager has been in and out of the hospital fighting an autoimmune disease. He's there again now, and will be for a few more days...

In his absence, I'm the de-facto manager of our small team, so it's fallen on me to look into the question "Should we visit him in the hospital or send something or...?" We're not particularly close, but I'd like to be a decent human, and I think if I were in his situation I'd appreciate a kind gesture from my colleagues. But what to do? I'm terrible with this kind of thing so I really could use suggestions. As I understand it, he's lucid but very weak. He's been calling in to meetings and seems to be in relatively good spirits.

Ideas so far are:
- Drive the team out to visit (round trip driving 1.5 hours, but we could make a team lunch out of it; and of course touch base with him first to make sure this is not unwelcome)
- Send some nice food(?) or something?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Work & Money (16 answers total)
I would send something- I think visiting someone in the hospital is a pretty intimate act and can be reserved for close friends.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2018 [11 favorites]

Buy a card, have everyone he works with sign it. Send it with some small item he may appreciate. I'd avoid food. Depending on what's going on, he may be on dietary restrictions in ways you wouldn't know.
posted by zizzle at 12:20 PM on February 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Unless he is family-like close with the team, do not drive the team out to visit him. I'd stay in touch though, maybe checking in a little bit before or after meetings to see if there's anything else workwise you could be doing to make things easier for him. And something slightly more personal than a card/flowers (though those are fine!) delivered that does not, in any way, seem like "Hey do some work" maybe a book/movie you know he'd like (if he's okay for that sort of thing) or some super-decadent but small treat. Do you know his family/friends at all? If you don't want to go the "get a thing delivered" route you could send something along with one of them, if appropriate. But just basic "We are thinking about you" is really all I'd think about, and I'd discourage people from visiting unless you know that is what he wants.
posted by jessamyn at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oof. As a person with chronic illness a visit sounds exhausting and especially if they are in the hospital that could be rough. They would REALLY need to want it and they may feel pressure to say it’s okay - but I agree - coworker hospital visit is more appropriate if you are all SUPER closeknit but I don’t know your workplace or your boss.

I would send a care package. NOT food or drinks. They may be on a strict food intake. Probably entertainment stuff like books or a kindle or an audible subscription or fun time wasting stuff like a coloring book or something. Comfort things like slippers and pillows can be good too.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:22 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Assuming they're well enough to read in bed, In my experience the absolute best thing you can send to someone staying in the hospital is a couple big Calvin and Hobbes books.
posted by bondcliff at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Group hospital visits are kind of stressful. Lots of cards. This is a work relationship, so daily email with short updates. Check to see if he has/ wants laptop, mobile, tablet, chargers, etc. If not, maybe you could do a delivery. One useful gift is a laptop lock (Kensington lock). Most laptop have a port where a lock can be inserted. It's minimal security, the cable is not heavy, but it slows down casual theft.
posted by theora55 at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2018

DO NOT VISIT. Full stop. Just do something cheerful that says "We're thinking of you." Flowers or balloon bouquet. Or even just a card signed by the team. (Believe it or not, hospital rooms can get too overloaded with flowers/balloons.)

(I'm saying this as a person whose bestie has a serious ongoing illness and has been hospitalized multiple times over the past several years.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:40 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Please don't visit. Hospitalized people are in a very vulnerable position and even visits from loved ones and inner circle friends are tough. If you know what sorts of magazines/books/media they like, send that, otherwise send a plant. Flowers and plants can really brighten up a hospital room.
posted by quince at 12:44 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’ve loved visitors when I’ve been hospitalized, so given the other answers here, there’s no way to know without asking. And the people who visited me have been people I’ve felt comfortable around, so maybe that’s a different situation

I got lots of flowers last time, and though I really appreciated it, I got pretty tired of dealing with dead flowers in the next week. One friend did bring me a varied group of books, and I was able to pick out something I felt like reading, though I think the Calvin and Hobbes idea is brilliant. Also a sleeping mask, because I’d griped about my roommate keeping the TV on all night.

Lots of assurance that everything at work is under control seems like a good idea.
posted by FencingGal at 1:06 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd say do not visit unless he specifically asks you to do so. I've seen how it can just be so stressful and not how he wants to be seen by the team (may not be able to have more than sponge baths right now due to IVs, may have a commode and urinal, may have a roommate, may have gown requirements if he's immunocompromised or on medication that leaves him susceptible to infection, may have a roommate with his own restrictions, may have a roommate in pain who groans a lot or says inappropriate things, may not have more than one chair in the room for visitors, may be kept awake at night by medication administration and beeping alarms and blood draws and want nothing more than to sleep when he's not calling into meetings...).

If there's someone who's bringing him things (e.g., a family member or partner) whose contact info you have, see if they can pick up a card signed by the team and/or other things you think he'd like (e.g., book, magazine, or iTunes or Amazon gift card if you know he has an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, etc. and likes to download music, games, books, etc.). Otherwise, check with the hospital how things should be sent—you wouldn't want to send something that only arrives after he leaves, for instance. Don't send food or drink unless you know he's not on dietary restrictions and/or getting a lot of tests done and blood drawn. And don't send heavily scented flowers (e.g., Easter lilies, agggggh). Avoiding flowers altogether is probably a good idea. Keep in mind that he'll have to keep track of and wrangle anything you send over, both on his tray table and bedside table while he's there and then when he leaves. Space is always at a premium.

Probably the best gift you can give him is helping him feel less stressed about things while he's in there, so continue to keep everything running smoothly and don't let him be a blocker to things getting done. If he has email on his phone or is comfortable with texting, or if you have a work chat app, message him in one of those ways rather than calling when you want to check in outside set meeting times, since he may be sleeping. Ask how and when he prefers you contact him, though. Seconding making sure he has any chargers or devices he wants there so he can check in when he's able. Also don't feel obligated to check in or provide info all the time unless he specifically requests it—he might think he wants it, but the hospital is kind of its own place, out of the normal stream of time, and has its way of totally upending one's usual priorities. If he's sick enough to be admitted, he's probably sick enough to need to rest a lot, even if his usual inclination is to always be busy and active and involved.
posted by limeonaire at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2018

A visit from a group of professional colleagues with whom you are not close while you are naked in a bathrobe and your underpants is just not a thing most people would relish.

Send flowers. Send a fruit basket. If you want to go the extra mile, a card signed by everyone would be nice.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:52 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

A group card is the Expected thing. If flowers or balloons are prohibited (sometimes for allergy reasons), things to read, nice soap, warm socks, sleep masks, nice wet wipes (so a person can clean up a little without getting up to the washbasin), or a nice picture frame (can have a goofy picture from the office with a note that he can put in better stuff later) can all be good hospital presents.
posted by ldthomps at 2:05 PM on February 8, 2018

As someone who was just in the hospital for a while--please do not visit. A nice card signed by everyone is sufficient, with maybe some baked goods when they return to the office (if that's a thing your office does.)
posted by sperose at 3:11 PM on February 8, 2018

I really like (most of) my work colleagues, but I would feel absolutely horrified if they came to visit me in the hospital. And I would feel very pressured to accept a visit if they asked me, so if I were asked I'd probably agree to it. But oh, it would make me feel so weird. That said, my list of "people I'd like to have visit me in the hospital" is really bloody short: my partner, my family, and maaaaaaybe my closest friends.

And food is tough for lots of people--too many potential minefields there.

I think the Calvin and Hobbes suggestion is superb.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:27 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nthing absolutely do not visit unless you receive an explicit invitation with no prompting from you whatsoever. Dealing with visitors when you feel like crap can be a major burden, and having to say no to people who ask to come visit when you know they have good intentions makes you feel mean.

Cards are nice; some silly photos inside would be even nicer, if that's the style of your group. Gift certificates for reading material or other stuck in bed entertainment are nice. Food baskets are great, IF you know what he likes and that he does not have conflicting temporary dietary restrictions. Flowers might be nice, but it depends.
posted by ktkt at 7:45 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

When my boss was hospitalized with a chronic autoimmune disorder, I sent him an audiobook through audible. The recipient need not be a subscriber. I have the same disorder and I've found that the worse it is, the more exhausted I am, and my experience of hospital stays is that they are loud and uncomfortable. For me, the white noise of a book that also happens to be something I enjoy is the perfect antidote.
posted by janey47 at 11:33 PM on February 8, 2018

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