We all know that euphoric feeling on the last day at work before our holidays. Pure bliss! Holidays offer us the chance to leave behind the stress and hassle of work and recharge our batteries, returning fighting fit and ready to face the demands of work once again.

However, when we are the one who is waving goodbye as colleagues leave for their 2-week break, its not such a great feeling. That sinking feeling at the thought of how much work there is to get through. Projects still need to be delivered on time, jobs need to be completed and the office must continue.

Holiday cover – some interesting facts.

  • The vast majority (85%) of companies do not bring in extra staff to cover the shortfall in resources, expecting their teams to share the work between them.
  • The majority (70%) of HR directors say that workloads are delegated to other employees when team members are on holiday,
  • Nearly one in four (37%) say that the manager assumes responsibility.

Within the NHS, unlike some private organisations, we do not bring in extra staff. Nursing staff may have “bank or agency staff” to cover their departments. It is more common in medium sized private organisations to use temporary cover for administration staff.

How can we manage this extra work?

Fundamentally it is a balancing act and especially if the teams are overstretched anyway.

Essential Work V Team Burnout

Managers need to plan and prepare the office departments/teams for the peak holiday period and implement effective strategies for managing workloads.

So, what are these effective strategies….


Whatever tool you personally use, planning and scheduling will ensure that you are clear what is required, by when and help you keep the on course with delivery times. Move the most important tasks to the top of your to-do list

Who’s priority?

This can be a tricky one. You have to be careful and tactful when someone else’s priority suddenly becomes your own. A colleague has delayed doing their part of the job or, has agreed to do a project where you have to contribute – either way their lead time for completion may just put your own priorities in trouble. And, don’t forget, you are already covering someone else’s work whilst they sit in the sun!

Don’t over commit.

There are many people who are always willing to lend a hand or can’t say no. It’s a nice quality to have but it can certainly increase you own stress levels. You may just have to learn to say No!

Set deadlines and negotiate deadlines.

It is important that you set expectations with staff, other departments and customers. It is well known that when we have target dates we are more likely to achieve that date, than if we have an open ended time frame such as “next week”. Before you know it “next week” has gone by and the task still not completed. Quite often it is possible to negotiate deadlines and it is always worth planning ahead and exploring if this is possible.

Delegate tasks

This is really about sharing the load. This saves individual members of the team taking on the majority of the burden. If everyone focuses on what their priorities are and what can be parked for a while it might just free up some time to share out he work load.

And relax!

It is very easy to allow yourself to become overly stressed, however it is not easy for some people to manage and avoid this. The easiest way to address stress is to stop it before it occurs. So again, thinking about planning ahead, this is definitely worth spending time doing before the peak times hit. With prior planning and remaining calm you will be able to think clearly and formulate plans and processes to help reduce the work burden.

Happy Holidays!