How to survive the summer at work
Are you holding the fort when everyone else is off work?
With the summer holidays in full swing, most of us are feeling a bit happier with thoughts of relaxing and doing more of the things we love with the people who mean the most to us. But what if you’re the one left behind while everyone else is away? How do you cope when your workload increases unexpectedly? Are you happy to have a go but don’t know what is expected of you?
Yes, it’s that time of year again where you’re covering for others without a handover and feeling a bit ‘dumped on’ rather than delegated to. By thinking about it differently you can turn this situation to your advantage as it’s a great opportunity to evaluate your career.
I’ve come up with 10 simple tips to help you get through until September – you might surprise yourself!
1. Be honest with how you feel about it all
Are you unmotivated and a bit jealous that everyone is off having a nice time? A bit resentful even? Things might be looking hopeful where the pandemic is concerned but this might mean you are finding things more difficult to deal with than usual, too.
Try a quick reframe and look for the positives; how quiet are the commute and the office? Now you can get on with some of your projects without constant interruptions from you-know-who’s deadlines – this could be the perfect time at work while everyone is off!
2. Plan ahead
Make sure you spend enough time prioritising, especially if you have an increased workload. Plan how many hours you’ll work and get any additional hours you might do agreed as time off or extra pay. There’s no need to be the martyr and work double your hours to get everything done without it being agreed in advance. Decide what is realistic and stick to it!
3. Focus on the priorities
‘Can you keep an eye on things while I’m away?’ A common request but not specific enough, you need to know the specifics, what are the priorities? Is it answering the phone to new customers or keeping on top of email queries? Make sure you get the heads up on what to look out for with a particular project or client list and what to do with that information.
With some specific pointers in advance, you can take this opportunity to shine at work once you know the difference between what is urgent and what is important to the person you’re covering for. Remember this might be very different to what you think is important!
4. Know who is in charge
The difference between acting up into the role and covering the role are quite different so make sure you know what authority you have by clarifying this detail, especially when covering for the boss.
What can you do if a difficult situation comes up? Try not to feel out of your depth when you don’t know the answer. Confidently saying something like ‘I’m not up-to-speed on that but I can find out for you’ or ‘I’ll leave a message for the boss to call you when they get back’ is often more than enough. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, stay calm and organised and trust yourself – you are probably much better than you think you are, that’s why you’ve been left in charge after all!
5. Create a new atmosphere
Things are different at work sometimes when certain people are not in the office, this may be the boss, or it could be someone else. Capitalise on this and enjoy this new way of working by getting to know some of your colleagues better when giving them updates or working with new people. You might find a better way to pass on information instead of the usual weekly report.
You could get a chance to set up a work social event; a drink after work for a change is more intimate than a whole team event. You might get the chance to go to lunch with someone new or at least nip to the sandwich shop for them. A tea break chat with a key colleague might help you be more visible in the office and help you get recognised, so go for it!
6. Make sure people know your role
With a few new responsibilities, you might get the opportunity to shine so be ready. Keep on top of what’s happening, within your remit of course, and keep people updated so they know you’ve got this.
Letting people know there is nothing to report with an ‘everything is under control’ message can reassure them that you’ve not forgotten your new role and you’re on top of things.
7. Notice what you notice
Find out something new about yourself, too. We sometimes dread the unknown, thinking we need certain people at work to help us with our role but when they’re not around what will you do? Challenge yourself to be more assertive. Speaking up in meetings and feeling confident in managing other people’s work as well as your own can bring real learning insights to help you think about what direction you want your career to take.
This can be a great time to reconnect with former colleagues or mentors to bounce an idea off them. You can build up your confidence by working things out yourself or asking appropriate questions of different people to help you. You might just find out how that project works when it’s explained differently to you.
8. Keep a note of your additional duties
You might have some new material for your CV or at least be able to talk more confidently in your next appraisal meeting. Think about your future with the company, training opportunities or even a pay rise. It’s always great to back up with evidence the things you’ve achieved at work so you, and your boss, know what you are capable of.
It’s always impressive to provide a short debrief to the person who was away that gives them a heads-up on what they need to know first. Remember to let them know what you’ve discovered about their role – in a positive way of course – so they know they have been missed and that you're thankful for the opportunity to learn about someone else’s role.
The first time I acted into the role of my boss I gave him a ‘please read this first’ email on my last working day. I welcomed him back and filled him in on the water cooler gossip and pub chats he’d missed. Being the boss means all aspects of the team, not just the work ones!
Use the time and opportunities to reflect on your role. Are you where you want to be and if not, what are you going to do about it?
9. Keep calm if something goes wrong
If there is a crisis that proves more difficult than you thought, use it as experience; try not to see it as a failure. You can reflect on what happened and share your learning with others as a learning curve. You may have to accept that you have been put in a difficult position and you did your best. Tell someone what happened and take responsibility for it.
If you get the opportunity, you can add what you’ve learned and what you would’ve done differently with the awareness gained from the experience And at least you know what your training needs are!
10. Reflect on your performance
Use the time and opportunities to reflect on your role. Are you where you want to be and if not, what are you going to do about it? It might be time to discuss your career with a coach to help work through some of your challenges, in life or work.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, then please share it with others who you think could benefit from it. This might be a good time for you to find out more about coaching. Most coaches offer an introductory session so you can get a good feeling about them before you start working with them. If you don’t then find a different coach!
We can have an informal chat if you’re thinking about making some changes to your career or life. Message me to get started and we can pull a plan together.