What to do when staff are sick?

Uncomfortable Situations

Sooner or later, one of your precious team members is going to be off work because of an illness for a day or so (hopefully). Yes, we do all we can to eat right, sleep well and enough, take our vitamins, wash our hands a lot while around sick people, but even then, it may happen that the flu will grab a staff member by the neck, chest, head or stomach. And while you feel sympathy for them, your next thought is what to do now that you are short-staffed.


If one of the staff feels very unwell or has a temperature, they should be sent home to get better and to prevent contagion with the other team members. The last thing you want is for multiple staff to be sick simultaneously. The quality of service in a practice goes down further with each person who is absent. And, given that the patients or clients are paying for perfect service, this can become a real challenge for the balance of the team.

Many practitioners have contingency plans for times like this, such as:

Contingency Plans

1. The first and most important step that should be done by all staff in the practice (long before an emergency happens) is to write job descriptions and protocols for each position that are very precise so that anyone could pick up and do an adequate job of filling in for a short while by reading and following instructions. Every day as they notice duties that they are doing, they should write a quick description or protocol and put it in their job description file (in the computer on the desktop for easy find, or hard copy in their desk drawer).

2. Some practices have past staff who are not working and are available as needed in a pinch (lucky devils).

3. It is a great idea to do cross-training with your staff so that they know the basics of each other’s jobs and could get by covering the other positions. This training takes a little strategic planning so as not to interrupt the current flow of business; it can be planned out and done in little bits over a period of time.

4. Hire a temporary to fill in. Here’s where #1 above becomes invaluable!

Good luck and may the gods be with you that illness doesn’t strike your team!

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