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It’s going to happen. Your child will be sick or it will be a snow day and you will have to work. It is an inconvenience all around, but it is also completely unavoidable. Kids will get sick and roads will get icy. 

Dr. Marissa Porter, an Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Clemson University, specializes in researching optimizing company/employee relations. In layman’s terms, she studies employee happiness in the workplace. And one of the biggest factors she’s noticed is if the company has a policy in place that addresses these types of situations.

Going over the plan before it’s needed is Porter’s top suggestion. If you are looking for a job, or don’t yet have children, ask about these policies up front. Even if you are established at your place of employment, she suggests speaking with the human resources department about their policies.

“The best thing to do is speak with your supervisor about leave days, the ability to work from home, bringing children with you or adjusting your shift hours so the work still gets done,” Porter said.

If you have a spouse or partner, make a plan together. Can one of you afford to stay home easier than the other? Does one of you have a better leave policy than the other? Plan before your children get sick so there’s not a fight when illness does hit.

Talk to your supervisor. Much like with your spouse, make a plan at work before it is needed. What does the sick days policy look like at your office? Can you work from home? Can you come in on the weekend to make up missed work? Maybe there is someone you can work out a trade with – you help if their child is sick and vice versa. 

“Some employers even have a relationship with a child care service and can help you find someone from a trusted source,” Porter said.

Create a list of emergency caregivers. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – someone who can be called on short notice and hopefully won’t mind handling your sick child or can get to you if there is bad weather. If you just need an adult around while your teen sleeps the day away, a neighbor or friend may be willing. Talk to people you would trust to help you out before there is a rush to find someone.

Prevent illness. This one is a given, but if you can keep the germs away, you can keep your schedule as uninterrupted as possible. Nobody can prevent snow and ice, but regular checkups and frequent handwashing can go a long way in keeping your home free of illness. 

“The big takeaway is to plan ahead so when something does happen, you’re prepared,” Porter said.

It can be stressful to have to miss work but being proactive and creating a course of action before it is needed can make the difference between your boss being understanding versus questioning your commitment to the job.

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