Covering for Coworkers on Vacation

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Success!Ezine For You



E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2013

It’s time for folks to start planning vacations. Whether for a week or just a few days, coworkers will probably ask you to cover for them while they’re away. Yes, this means extra work for you when you’re already swamped, but it’s usually a good idea to agree since you’ll probably need them to cover for you. But avoid undue stress and aggravation. Before your coworker takes off, get all the information you need to carry out this responsibility.

  • Know What You’re Covering

Many coworkers waltz off on their vacations without letting their colleagues know a thing about the tasks and responsibilities they’re expected to cover. Don’t tolerate this. You may think you know the job your coworker does, but can become overwhelmed quickly once you start covering their tasks every day. Ask them to spell out what they expect you to cover before they leave. And set limits if you feel you’re not going to be able to handle it all. Don’t be manipulated by guilt about this. After all – you still have your job to do – which, in this economy, probably means you’re already doing the work of a couple of people already. Your colleague may have to ask others to help out and/or get the supervisor to determine who will do what.

  • Know How to Get What You Need

Once you know just what you’re agreeing to cover, make sure you know how to get any files or other materials you need to do the job. Who are your resource people and how can you contact them? Who’s best to contact for what? By what means? And what’s the best time to reach them? Get all the information you need before your coworker takes off. This will save you a lot of time and headaches if or when you run into problems and need help in order to move forward. And most colleagues will give you their contact number, but don’t be quick to use it if you really don’t have to. You want to be free to enjoy your vacation without being called, emailed or texted every minute, so don’t do this to your colleague unless it’s absolutely necessary. Unplugging from work and enjoying time off is important for all of you. And, ultimately, when supervisors deem something to be an emergency, they will make this contact or direct you to do so.

  • Just Say “No”

While it’s usually a good idea to be a team player and support coworkers when they take time off, don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. Your colleagues need to give you advance notice when they need you to cover for them so that you have time to organize your own work to make room for theirs. Unless there is some emergency — which usually isn’t the case with vacations – it is unacceptable for them to ask you to cover at the last minute. Feel free to say: “You know I’m always willing to cover for you, but this time you haven’t given me enough notice to get prepared. You know how my job goes – I need at least a couple of days’ (or weeks’) lead time.” You also have to push back when coworkers ask you to cover too frequently. Sometimes people who have children, for example, believe that those who don’t “have nothing better to do” and are always free to spend time at work. They may decide to use vacation time at the last minute to do something fun with the family or to attend a child’s event – taking it for granted that you will agree to cover for them whenever they decide to take off. Coverage should be reciprocal without the bulk of it falling on you. If it gets to be too much, just say “no”. It’s fine to add: “You know I always cover for you, but I just did last week and now I’ve got to catch up on my own work. When are you taking off again? I may be in a better position to cover then.” This will help your coworkers understand the need to plan ahead as much as possible and to let you know their intentions. Than you can plan ahead too. This is especially important in a small workplace where there aren’t many colleagues to cover when someone takes off.

Covering for coworkers is a great way for everyone to be able to take off and enjoy hard-earned vacation without worrying about their job. But it’s important to minimize your own stress while doing this kind favor, so be sure to clarify expectations and set limits before your coworker heads out the door!

Read more about Goal Success:

Are You A Pushover?

Be Frank with Friends


About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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