Navigating personal emergencies in the workplace

It is inevitable that there will come a day when illness or a personal emergency keeps you from going to work. Perhaps you have a urinary tract infection or developed a pressure sore that needs attention. Maybe it is just a terrible mental health day. While businesses accommodate workers with sick leave and personal days, there is still a need for you to communicate with your place of work. Here are some ways to make that talk a little easier.

Reach out immediately

When your house gets robbed, call your boss and then the police. While only a joke, there is some truth to that statement. You might not phone your employer the moment an emergency arises, but you should let them know that you won’t be able to make it into work. Do this as soon as possible as it can assist with minimising the impact of your absence. A well-informed employer can ensure that work is uninterrupted by redistributing tasks or appointing someone to fill in. Additionally, they are able to accommodate and support you however needed.

Use the right tools

Informing your employer is important, but doing so through a communication tool that they don’t check will be ineffective. Be sure to contact them in the appropriate way – perhaps using several forms of communications (e.g. sending them a message on their phone and an e-mail). It is also a good idea to inform a close colleague or the human resources department at your company who can ensure that your employer is aware of the situation.

Provide details

Key to communicating with your employer is providing enough detail. Inform them of what happened, when, what is being done to resolve the emergency and how long you think you might be away from the office. Let them know the best way to stay in communication with you and perhaps suggest a way for your work to be managed. It is a bonus if you can get a co-worker to fill in during your absence.

The same applies for personal days. If you are having a tough mental day, speak to your employer about why you are struggling, what you are doing to recover and present a plan for how the work can be managed. If the latter is too tough, simply communicate your willingness to work you’re the company to ensure the work gets done.


Most companies will expect some form of proof regarding your emergency, for example a sick note or letter from your doctor. While it might seem tedious, be proactive by providing the information as soon as possible.

Work hard

When you get back in the office, put in some extra effort. It can be as simple as working an extra hour or through lunch, but show your employer that you are eager to get back to work and make up for lost time. Of course, take into consideration the strain on your body and health. It would be counterintuitive to overwork and suffer from burnout.

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