More than half of employees say covering for a coworker on vacation is ‘significantly stressful.’ Here’s how to cut them some slack

Taking time off ticks your coworkers off.
More than half of workers (53%) say covering for a colleague on vacation is a “significantly stressful event,” according to a recent survey of 2,000 American employees by Nugg, a cannabis telemedicine and delivery service.
That’s because the average person’s workload increases by almost a third when covering for an absent colleague, according to the new research. And more than one in three (37%) workers confessed that they felt resentment toward colleagues on vacation for having to pick up the slack in their absence.
This backs an Alamo Rent a Car family vacation survey from earlier this year, which found 41% of workers said they have been “vacation shamed,” or sent on a guilt-trip by coworkers, their supervisor or their employer for taking time to get away.
So it’s not surprising, then, that a recent LinkedIn survey found more than two-thirds (67%) of people said they would still contact a colleague about work-related matters while the coworker was on vacation. So much for that OOO message.
But this shouldn’t discourage you from taking your hard-earned vacation days. After all, most Americans (52%) left 705 million unused vacation days on the table in 2017, worth more than $62.2 billion in lost benefits, according to Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2018 report. And nearly a quarter have not taken a vacation in more than a year.
Project: Time Off also found many people hesitate to take a vacation because of workplace pressure. Sixty-one percent of employees who were concerned that taking vacation would make them appear less dedicated or replaceable left their vacation time unused, as did 56% of those who felt no one else could do their job while they were gone.
Yet research has shown that taking time off can reduce stress, make you more productive and even help you earn more money in the long run. “We found that when people don’t take vacation, they feel overwhelmed (58%), disorganized (21%) – and only 3% feel creative at work,” LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele told Moneyish. “To avoid burnout, vacation gives you the opportunity to sign off, unplug and experience the world around you to gain inspiration and maintain productivity.”
So Decembrele shared some tips with Moneyish on how to escape without leaving your coworkers hanging.
  • “First, to head off any major resentment, work with your manager well in advance to choose the right time to take off,” Decembrele said. This way, most your team won’t be jet-setting at the same time, leaving just one or two people behind to cover everything. Or it prevents taking off right before a major deadline. And make sure that you and your manager are aligned on expectations about what you’ll wrap up before you go, and who will handle what while you’re gone.
  • Prep your team to handle your workload while you’re away. Discuss a plan together and align on an out-of-office point of contact so that everyone knows who is on deck should anything urgent come up.
  • And, set up a “last resort” plan should something really urgent arise — and clearly define what constitutes an “urgent” need. Tell your colleague to communicate via text versus email, so you can avoid being dialed into your inbox.
  • Perfect the OOO. “Short and sweet is the name of the game for OOO messages — include the dates you’re out, who should be contacted instead, and relevant contact information,” Decembrele said.
  • “Recognize that it’s not always easy for professionals to ask for help, so try to mitigate that before you head out on holiday,” she added. LinkedIn research reveals that more than 1 in 3 professionals (35%) say they’re often afraid to ask for help at work and that number jumps up even more for Millennials (41%) and Gen Zers (54%). “So, asses what help your colleague(s) will need while covering for you and try to help (get) the resources on board before you head out,” she added. “Or, ask your boss for an extension. Don’t leave this for your colleague to do.”
  • And be ready to return the favor when your colleagues go on vacation. “Don’t forget, it’s a two-way street,” she added. “You should help them when they go away. You are in it together!”
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