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What to do when you unexpectedly have to take time off work

We’ve all been there. Either you or your child are unwell, your car breaks down, or there is a family crisis of some kind.

You can’t be in two places at once so you make the decision, if it's within your control, to take the day or week off work.

Last week my youngest daughter Tahlia, who is seven and has type 1 diabetes, was admitted to hospital with sickness, a temperature and ketones in her blood. (She is fine now and is watching the movie Annie for the second time in a row).

I hate to admit this but, after many cuddles and the doctor’s reassurance that all would be fine, while she slept I slowly got the laptop out and checked a few emails. With the help of my team, we contacted clients to let them know I wouldn’t be seeing them that day.

Even though all my clients are amazing and I 100% knew that they would understand, I couldn’t help but feel a little stressed not to be there for them and my team. This feeling, coupled with being tired after a night sleeping in a chair, made me increasingly anxious about being behind my planned schedule.

But with three children, I’m no stranger to having to re-jig my plans.

Here is how I managed things...


1. From the hospital, I spoke to my team to fill them in and let them handle some diary and project clients so that work could still go ahead (where possible) in my absence.

2. I also contacted my clients to let them know what my priorities were and when I would get the information to them, giving myself a little extra time if required.


3. Part of my team’s standard process is to compile a weekly list of priorities. It’s not a to-do-list. It’s the must-do things to be completed each week to ensure that we keep momentum and meet the goals within THC and for our clients.

This dashboard stops me from getting lost in my emails and all the things I think I should be doing in my head.

Reviewing this list helped me focus on what actually needs to get done and not what I think needs to get done. There is a big difference!

4. Once back in the office, I chose to prioritise 1-2-1s with my Assistant and Operations Manager. While I did think about postponing these meetings and catching up on client work, I actually brought these meetings forward as soon I returned to the office to ensure everything was good. They were able to take a lot off my plate.

5. Lastly, I had to give myself permission to be kind to myself. Every so often we unexpectedly have to take some time away from work. To get back on track, all we need to do is take a big deep breath once we return to the office, pay a little extra attention to communication, prioritise and work on one thing at a time.

About the author

Tara Humphrey is the founder of THC Primary Care, a leading healthcare consultancy specialising in workforce transformation and the only consultancy to have worked with 11 Training Hubs across South London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Tara and her team also work with GP federations supporting the implementation of clinical services.

Tara has over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sector and has an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care and is the author of over 100 blogs.

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