Unlike a vacation, which employees schedule in advance, no one plans a sick day – or at least most people don’t. In most cases a sick day is not a pre-arranged absence. So what do you do when your receptionist calls off at 7:45 in the morning? Panic: The idea of hearing a ringing phone all day and knowing there’s not much you can do about it is enough to cause a hapless manager to want to call in sick too. While most would claim that answering the phone is an easy task, those who lack the training and experience to do so, are unlikely to last more than a few minutes juggling phone calls, dealing with angry callers, and struggling to remember the illogical button sequence to transfer a call. Panic is certainly an understandable reaction, but it’s not a solution. Scramble: Once the panic subsides a bit, you mentally review your staff list. Can anyone cover? What if you draft each staff person to fill in for one hour? Of course, then you will have nine people with good reason to be angry with you. And whatever you do, don’t assume your least senior female staffer can fill in. That’s just sexist and is plain wrong. Turn on the Answering Machine: If juggling staff isn’t going to work perhaps you can turn on your answering machine for the day – providing it still works. Or maybe it’s sitting in a box in storage. So you’ll need to find it, hook it up, record a greeting, and test it. Wow, that’s too many things that could go wrong. What if the old relic isn’t even compatible with your new, sophisticated phone system? No, an answering machine isn’t a solution either. Hire a Temp: What about calling a temporary employment agency? Certainly they have people on their roster trained in dealing with the public over the phone. Sure, they’ll need training on your system, but then they’ll be good to go. But how soon can they come in? It might not be until after lunch and even if they make it by mid-morning, you still need a stopgap solution until then. Maybe it’s best to just close the office for the day. Call Your Answering Service: You use your answering service afterhours, can they cover you during the day, too? Of course they can. They have your account already programed and their staff is trained at handling your calls. And if you’ve arranged this in advance, they will even have your office-hour protocols in their system. Just give them a call to let them know what to expect and you’re good to go. Having your receptionist call in sick doesn’t need to be a disaster. There’s no need to panic, scramble, or close the office. Just call your answering service and leave the rest to them. Then sit back and experience a normal day at the office. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center industry and who provides a healthcare call center matchmaking service. Contact Janet at email@example.com or call 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.