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5 Ways to Deal with Family Issues While You're At Work

Patrick Ball on September 16, 2015 09:41 AM


Life is full of surprise family issues that can throw a wrench in your workday. Nothing blows up an afternoon of meetings quite like a call from the school nurse or your dad’s doctor.

It’s part of doing business in the modern work world. Most employees will admit having to leave work for family reasons and doing errands during the workday. You can probably think of a few examples from around your office just this week.

You’ll never know when unexpected family issues will arise. But if you plan ahead, you can minimize disruptions when they do. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you tackle those unplanned family situations.

  1. Be Transparent with Your Boss
    Employers have become increasingly aware that parents and other caregivers, but oftentimes it makes sense to connect with your manager about establishing some off-the-books flexibility. Make sure to remember that accountability comes with flexibility, so you should be ready with a solution. For example, explain that if you have to leave work early, you’ll pick up where you left off from home.

    RELATED: 20 Questions Working Parents are Afraid to Ask at Their Jobs 

  2. Be Proactive at Home
    You don’t know when disaster is going to strike, but it’s a safe bet that it will at some point. Keep an in-case-of-emergency handbook ready and up-to-date for your nanny and your spouse, so they can handle minor flare ups on their own. Run through your plans with your children, so they know what to expect. And create a list of secondary phone numbers in case you can’t be reached right away while you’re at work. Having a plan in place ensures everyone knows what to do. It may even have the effect of showing your nanny and family how much they can handle on their own, decreasing the likelihood that you’ll get called home from work because your little one’s running a slight fever.

  3. Be Cool
    It’s natural for feelings to bubble up when your workday is interrupted by family issues, be it a call from your daughter’s principal or your dad’s cardiologist. When these situations arise, allow yourself to take a beat and identify the most effective way to move forward. Being annoyed will just add more stress to the situation.

  4. Call for Backup
    Having a backup care plan in place is super important for working families. This means having a plan for when an unexpected situation arises. In some cases this is a family member or close friend you can lean on in a pinch. Sometimes dual-income partners will alternate which one will miss work to deal with the situation. Lucky ones have employer-provided backup care – a reliable solution to fill care gaps that could otherwise force working moms, dads or caregivers out to call out of work, miss a deadline or reschedule an important meeting. If you’re unsure, ask your manager or HR if your employee benefits programs include backup care or other family care assistance benefits.

    RELATED: 15 Times When Working Parents Need Backup Care 

  5. Be Gracious
    Ninety percent of employees have left work for family reasons, according to’s recent Better Benefits survey. It happens. But just because absenteeism is an expected part of doing business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be grateful and gracious when your coworkers cover for you when you need to dip out to deal with a family situation. Especially if someone goes above and beyond, like leading a meeting or giving a presentation for you, be sure to send a small “thank you” – and consider giving them a shout out at a team or company meeting. A little thanks and recognition goes a long way when it comes to building team and boosting morale. 


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