Here's help when you need it

In two weeks, you travel to San Diego for a work conference. That's the good news. The bad? You forgot to reserve a spot at the kennel, which is now booked. Who's going to watch Corky? Even more pressing, the house desperately needs a clean, as friends from out of town visit this weekend. Unfortunately, the time to dust and scrub is in short supply.

When life intervenes, we all could use a little assistance. The university has now made it easier to hire people who can help.

Johns Hopkins last year signed an agreement with to offer employees free premium membership to the online network that helps its members find local child care, pet care, senior care, housekeeping, tutoring, and services for other specific needs. Through the care@work program, Johns Hopkins University and Health System employees can either post a service needed, such as someone to walk a dog or house sit for a weekend, or search the site's vast database for people who offer the service they're looking for.

Caregiver profiles include experience, skills, availability, and rate charged, and most include reviews submitted by previous clients. Fees may vary depending on the specifics of the job, and payment can be negotiated between the provider and the member. Johns Hopkins does not provide financial assistance or reimbursement for the services arranged through the site.

The premium membership, which typically would cost from $37 to $147 per month, allows users to view and post jobs, make contact with an unlimited number of caregivers, and access background checks and references for providers.

For years, has been the university's preferred vendor for backup care services, helping to arrange temporary in-home child and adult care. But now full-time Johns Hopkins employees have total access to what is considered the world's largest online network of caregivers.

"The site can help you balance work and life demands," says Essence Pierce, programs coordinator for the Johns Hopkins Office of Work, Life and Engagement. "This could be a one-time need, or long-term care."

Through the site's interface, you can search by service and then specify who and what you're looking for. To refine the search, members can sort by distance from home, hourly rates, and whether the provider has a photo, accepts noncash payments, has transportation, and other criteria. Some providers offer multiple services, such as pet sitting, child care, and errand help.

Ian Reynolds, director of the university's WorkLife and Community Programs, says he used the service on the eve of a party he was throwing at his house. Reynolds says he had a budget in mind, and a short time frame. He scanned various profiles and eventually found a match. "I contacted her, and the same day she got back in touch and we arranged a time for her to see the house and give us an estimate," he says. "I started the process on a Monday and by Friday, in time for the party, the house was cleaned. And we were very satisfied with the level of service."

Providers are guaranteed to respond within three days, and do not charge until service is delivered. Payment can be made through the website or in person.

To enroll, employees must preregister. They then will receive an email with details about enrolling with Care@Work so that they will be able to search for care providers at