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How to Avoid Getting Overloaded When Your Colleagues Take Time Off for the Holidays

By Maurie Backman – Nov 13, 2018 at 8:46AM

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The holidays are a popular time to take vacation. But if you're the one staying behind at the office, that could spell trouble.

Though the holidays are a popular time for workers to cash in on their vacation days, there are plenty of good reasons not to take time off toward the end of the year. For one thing, holiday travel can be prohibitively expensive, so if you're looking to visit friends and family, the latter part of the year is perhaps the worst time to do so. Additionally, putting in more face time toward the end of the year can work to your advantage when your manager is focused on things like promotions and raises. And, you'll probably find that you're more productive when the ever-present distractions known as your coworkers disappear.

Then again, there's a downside to having the office all to yourself, and it's getting dumped on when everyone else is away. If you're worried that your life is going to be miserable during the holidays because your coworkers will be gone, here's how to mitigate that concern.

Man putting his head down on a desk


1. Set boundaries

When many of your colleagues take off at the same time, somebody has to pick up the slack. And chances are, that somebody will be you. That said, you shouldn't have to drive yourself utterly crazy trying to manage your own job plus the work of six other people, so before your colleagues leave, sit them and your boss down and set some ground rules. Explain that while you're happy to help out, you can only do so much, especially if you have your own deadlines to meet. With any luck, your manager will recognize the tough spot you're being put in and figure out a way to more equitably divvy up the load so you don't get slammed.

At the same time, let your colleagues know that while you'd like to serve as a backup for each and every one of them, you can't help everyone at the same time. This way, it'll be on them to duke it out and see who gets to ask you for coverage, as opposed to you having to make that decision.

2. Talk to your boss about getting temporary help

It's common to see a lot of empty desks at the office around the holidays, but if you're concerned about keeping up with your workload in the absence of much of your team, try suggesting to your boss that you hire some temps to help compensate. Whether your manager says yes will probably be a function of your company's budget, but if there's wiggle room to get some extra hands on deck, and you're willing to train those temps, it might ease the burden on you.

3. Keep your eyes on the big picture

Getting overloaded with work is no fun, especially when it happens because you're frantically trying to cover for everyone who's out. At the same time, recognize that in doing all of that work, you're making a good impression on your boss while building some goodwill with your coworkers. And remember, if you push yourself to step up and cover other people's workloads when they're away, they'll return the favor when it's your turn to be out.

There's no question about it: It's hard being left behind at the office while your colleagues all take time off for the holidays. At the same time, that influx of work you might have to cope with isn't a long-term or permanent one, so if you can survive the next bunch of weeks, your officemates will be back before you know it.

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