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In summer, distracted parents need an understanding boss

What happens when the caregiver arrives late or calls in sick? A parent needs an understanding employer.

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It's summertime. That means vacation, fun and freedom for the kids. They need to be driven to activities, entertained and simply cared for.

But what happens when the caregiver arrives late or calls in sick? Or when an activity is cancelled? Or when the child frequently calls the working parent at the office?

Many people say that the business of business is business; simply stated, the work needs to be accomplished. While laudable, this goal can present a challenge, especially for workers who may have a positive reputation and may want to continue doing a superior job, but child rearing demands are placing considerable pressure on that ambition.

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The quality of their work might suffer. Also, fellow employees may resent the time these parents take off from focusing on the work.

Here are some ways that you and the parents can find a balance:

Learn about the parents' circumstances:

Allow the employee to explain the details regarding the summertime issues that might arise. Once you have been alerted to the potential for distractions, if and when those situations occur, you can be more understanding.

Discuss flexible work hours:

In many organizations, employees have the option of coming in "late" and leaving "late," or coming in early and leaving early. Or if the employee needs to leave early, he or she can arrange to take work home. Make-up work also could be finished on the weekends. If an employee needs to leave early, make sure you've clearly stated what needs to be accomplished by the next morning and how the tasks can be accomplished.

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Suggest taking personal time:

If your company doesn't allow for flexible scheduling, then the employee needs to consider taking some vacation time or personal time to take care of the child's needs. If your company's schedule and culture don't allow for flexibility, you'll have to agree to "dock" a certain amount of time and pay to cover the conflicting schedule demands. However, this should clearly be used as a last resort. A person's take-home pay is often sacred. Tampering with that can easily lead to a decrease in morale and productivity.

Keep an open mind:

Consider making an exception for employees with significant demands outside the work environment. Allow for flexibility in the work schedule. Explain that this isn't to allow people to simply sleep late in the morning, but for dealing with urgent needs. Chances are that employees will outperform their previous productivity levels because they're so grateful that you understand their difficult situation.

Encourage parents to plan ahead:

To minimize distractions, the parent can hire a nanny, a babysitter, or a neighbour to drop off and pick up the kids. He or she also can find other parents with children in similar activities to form a carpool. If your employee can't easily take time away from work to drive in the carpool, perhaps he or she can pay another parent to assume that responsibility. If the parent doesn't know other people with children, often the organization sponsoring the activities can provide the names of local families who might be willing to form a carpool.

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