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How to Help Your Coworker Cover For Vacation

October 7, 2014

By: Diana Schneidman

The most important thing to remember while you plan for your vacation is that you deserve your vacation. You have the right to time off that is free from worry and aggravation.

The purpose of a vacation is to refresh so that you are more effective in your job. A rejuvenating vacation benefits you and your company as well.

The second most important thing to remember is that while you are on vacation, you have the right to expect others to help out so that you don’t return to a mess that damages the company or at least your department.

Companies vary in terms of how vacations are covered and how employees are to prepare for vacations. See how your coworkers prepare for their time away and try to do at least as well.

Perhaps it is impossible to entrust anyone with reliable coverage while you are out, but it’s worth a try. The better you prepare, the easier it is for coworkers to step in and take care of what most needs doing.

Here are eight tips to help your coworker assume some of your responsibilities and that will ease your return to work:

  1. Clean off your desk and organize what remains as much as possible. When a coworker steps into disarray, he may feel overwhelmed and decide to back off from it as much as possible. You can’t expect someone else to manage your desk if you prove unable to manage it yourself. Worst of all is when something with an approaching due date gets lost amid the clutter. Don’t allow your vacation to be an opportunity for others to discover how you are unable to manage an out-of-control your workload.
  2. Determine what is important to be carried out on a daily basis while you are away and what can wait. Let your fill-in know about this so they can explain to others why some tasks can wait, while they put extra effort into what must be done. Again, if you have trouble prioritizing your work, this can leave a bad impression on others.
  3. Leave at least a few written instructions. In particular, leave passwords and procedures that don’t lend themselves to common sense or memory. Even if your coworker nods her head while you explain what is going on, don’t assume she really understands. Sometimes responsibilities seem much more complicated the first time you do them independently.
  4. Give a week or so of advance guidance and let the coworker watch you do some tasks in preparation for your days off. It’s even more helpful to allow the coworker to actually implement under your watchful eye. Then you can answer questions when they arise.
  5. Determine in advance if you will leave a phone number or another way for you to be reached. Decide if you will continue to check voicemail and / or email while you are on vacation. Share your decisions with others so there are no unpleasant surprises among your coworkers or even with supervisor while you are away.
  6. Block off your calendar as far in advance as possible. This way no one will be disappointed when you fail to show up for a meeting.
  7. Meet pressing deadlines before you leave . . . or at least alert others as to anticipated dates of completion or alternative plans. It’s awkward, if not outright fatal, to your reputation to allow important work to fall between the cracks.
  8. Set up your voicemail message and your email automatic messages so coworkers, customers, and other important contacts are informed of how and when their requests will be handled. If possible, leave information on how they can contact someone else during the interim.

Most important, enjoy yourself and relax. After all, that’s the point of your vacation! Don’t allow the whole process to stress you so severely that you determine the time off is not worth the aggravation.

A pleasant change of pace and a not-overly-frantic return to work will help you anticipate eagerly, rather than dread, your next vacation!

Diana Schneidman

I have freelanced and consulted since 1992 while also holding full-time corporate marketing positions during some of that period. Freelance writer specializing in the insurance industry. Marketing communications, market research reports and competitive intelligence for insurance, asset management and general business.

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