by Eileen Moloney, Head of Marketing at Brightwater
When the summer holidays roll around, offices can resemble ghost towns. But don’t let the absence of your colleagues fool you! There is still plenty of work to be done and if you’re the one left in the office, how do you handle the extra workload without needing a holiday yourself?
Timing of holidays
Unless you’re in an industry where the company sets mandatory holidays and closes down for a certain period of time where everyone is off (eg construction / manufacturing), then you never should have to cover more than one other person’s workload at the same time. Employers should be efficiently managing holiday scheduling so that no-one is left carrying the burden of several colleagues to the detriment of their own work.
Efficient handover period
The week before your colleague disappears off to the “Costa of Fun and Sun”, sit down with them and find out what their workload will mean for you while they’re away. Ideally they will have done as much as possible to lessen the impact on you. You’re not going to be doing ALL their work as well as your own as that’s hardly realistic. However you will need to be aware of exactly what needs to be done to keep the business going smoothly. Always get vital contact information and passwords before they leave. Don’t be afraid to ask them to walk you through any processes you’re not necessarily familiar with and fill you in on things that you might need to deal with while they’re away.
Make sure that you fully understand what needs to be done and what impact this may have on your clients and the general running of the business. Remember to ask your colleague to put an “Out of Office” autoreply on their email giving you as the contact in their absence so that clients can contact you directly.
Contacting them while they’re away
Do ask if they want to be contacted while away. While it’s always nice to be able to switch off for the full holiday period, some people will relax more if they know you’ll contact them in cases of emergency. However, try and respect their time off and don’t ring them for trivial reasons such as finding a file if you can manage it yourself with a bit of effort.
Ask for help
If you feel that it will be too much for you to manage, then talk to your manager about delegating some tasks to others. It is also important that your own projects and workload aren’t neglected in the effort to ensure your colleague’s work is done. Don’t let your own work suffer. Make sure your manager is in the loop if you are setting new deadlines for tasks and that they recognise that you’re doing your best. Good managers would be happy to step in and help at any time.
At the end of each day, make a list of what you have to do for the following day for both yourself and your colleague. You may find it easy to keep track of your own tasks and deadlines but throwing someone else’s workload into the mix means running the risk of forgetting something.
Be realistic about it though and prioritise tasks keeping in mind required deadlines. This may mean that some days you get more of your own work done rather than your colleagues and vice versa.
Hand-back on their return
The day before your colleague is due to return, send them an email with a concise summary of their projects / work and a list of all action you’ve taken. This means that they’re immediately updated with what has been done. It also means that you minimise the risk of them interrupting you with questions when you’re jumping back into your own workload.
The end result
Sometimes it can be frustrating watching someone skip out of the office on their holidays when you know your workload has just doubled. But bear in mind that this may be your big chance in your employer’s eyes. Perhaps this is their way of judging how you cope with extra responsibility before they make decisions on promotions or career development. Even though it’s just a temporary measure, it’s still an opportunity to show how much of a team player and hard worker you can be. So not only are you pretty much guaranteeing yourself one of the really big Toblerones on your grateful colleague’s return, you’re also possibly enhancing your own career progression! Win-win all round!