The heat is on! And I'm not talking about this British heatwave.
It's the beginning of the summer holiday rush and if you're not the one heading to the beach or jumping into a pool, that means you're left at work covering for your colleagues. Our recent UK study found that the majority of us (87%) take on a colleague's workload in their absence, and balancing your own work and theirs isn't always easy.
It's completely normal to feel overwhelmed and feel apprehensive of this additional work. Like most things, the best way to manage this is to prepare.
See it as an opportunity: You may feel pushed for time and feeling the pressure but try to switch your mindset to see this as an opportunity to stretch your capability and build up your skills. When covering for more senior colleagues, our study showed that two-fifths (40%) of us learn more advanced skills and gain a better idea of what that role involves.
Plan and be realistic: More than a third (34%) of workplaces have no structure in place for handing over work when someone is planning to be away. If your workplace is one of them, create your own structure so that you feel more prepared to cover your colleague. For example, aim to have a handover meeting with them to run through various tasks and be sure you have sight of all the detail and background you need. This is particularly important if it’s a task that they’ve started and you need to finish, it’s worth making the time to handover properly so you feel comfortable and your colleague can properly switch off.
Know your go to resources for help: Part of the planning stage is knowing where to go if you’re stuck. Make sure that in your handover conversation with your colleague you understand who may be able to help on certain tasks or documents you can read to feel more up-to-speed.
Prioritise: You are one person and you can’t do everything. With the extra work, almost half of us (48%) are more likely to work through our lunch break or work more than our working hours. That is not a healthy way to work and as stress and pressure builds, burnout can creep in. Get into the good habit of creating yourself a to-do list, with the most urgent items at the top. Be realistic with what you can achieve in a day.
You’re not alone: If the extra workload starts to feel too much, don’t just power through and wait for your colleague to return, look to others for help and support. Talk to your team or your manager, there may be ways to better delegate and prioritise, as well as extend a deadline.
Sign of trust: Covering someone else’s workload whilst they’re away builds trust. Firstly, know that if you’re given extra work it’s because your colleague believes you can do it. Our study also found that 40% of us feel that other colleagues trust us to take on more responsibility after taking on a more senior colleague’s work and in general, a third of us feel more confident when colleagues come back from their time off.
Everyone is entitled to their annual leave and those of us that are left in the office shouldn’t feel overworked or left with unrealistic demands. Instead, the change of workload should give us insight into our colleagues’ roles, help us learn new skills and build our confidence.
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