A vacation may not feel exactly like a vacation if we keep getting pulled back into work. That’s why a lot of teams arrange for vacation coverage between colleagues. This “paying it forward” concept can be an invaluable way to help people truly disengage. On the other hand, these trade-offs can backfire, especially when the person left behind is burdened with a huge increase in work.
What is the best way to structure vacation coverage? How can we avoid burdening the person who left behind? This comes down to how the person heading off on vacation manages things.
5 Things a Vacationer Can Do:
- Plan in advance
Start letting people know you will be away three or more weeks in advance. In most cases, your colleagues will be able to work around your vacation for meetings and deadlines. Where possible, avoid having anything significant happen just before or after your vacation.
- Be discerning about what needs to be covered in your absence
I recommend limiting your backup to urgent requests. Where possible, project work should be managed around your vacation. If there still remains a significant amount of work, consider recruiting additional back-up.
Plan to meet with your colleague a few days before you leave. Provide them with enough information to step in on your behalf if necessary. Tell them the context behind key projects. Make sure they can easily access key files and information.
- Let people know
Let your network know who to contact in your absence. The best way to do this is on any as-needed basis. Set up an automatic email response and voicemail message directing people to your back-up colleague. The sender can then decide whether they can wait until you return from vacation.
- Show appreciation
Let’s face it, even if your colleague gets lucky and doesn’t end up having to do a lot of work on your behalf, they have still assumed extra responsibility. This deserves your sincere appreciation. Send a note to their supervisor. Offer to return the favour when it is their turn to go on vacation. And a souvenir from your trip wouldn’t hurt.
Having a colleague cover us while we disengage and take a real vacation is one of the best gifts. The above tips will help us make this as easy as possible for them, while also leading by example. After all, we’ll be covering for their vacation soon enough.
What is your experience with vacation coverage? What has worked well and what has turned into a dreadful disaster? Please share your thoughts below.