Advice » In the Workplace» Workplace Issues » The Skeleton Crew: Managing Wor ...
The Skeleton Crew: Managing Work When Your Coworkers Are Out of the Office

The Skeleton Crew: Managing Work When Your Coworkers Are Out of the Office

When the holidays and summer months roll around, the workplace can seem like a ghost town. But don't let the tumbleweeds fool you; there's usually no shortage of extra work. For the folks left behind, it's time to hold down the fort.

While coworkers are away, it’s important to keep things running smoothly, stay productive and get recognized for your work. “Managing work and staying productive when faced with competing priorities (and added workload) takes a lot of discipline and courage,” admits Paul Edward, managing advisor of Edward Professional Advisors in Los Angeles. This is especially true if you are working during the holidays.

Or maybe you’re in the opposite position. Work’s slowed to a crawl, so now what do you do? “This is an incredible time to have a two-week boot camp to get things done,” advises Kimberly Douglas, Atlanta-based author of The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results. “This is an opportunity to focus your attention on one project, rather than things that can be done during the busier, multitasking workweek. Or start thinking ahead to your future deadlines. It’s also a good time to make an impression on the boss by letting him know that you would love to lend a hand.”

Set Priorities When Working During the Holidays

Before the office empties out, learn about the role of the coworker(s) you'll be filling in for. List the activities you’re asked to handle, making sure you understand the assignments and any potential impact on customers or business operations. Next, review the extra work with your supervisor to set priorities. “This is important enough to schedule a 10-minute discussion to ensure absolute alignment,” says Karissa Thacker, a New York-based executive coach. Once there's agreement on priorities and process, check in with your manager periodically during your colleague's absence.

When you’re covering for a vacationing coworker, treat her priority items as if they were your own. Why? “Reciprocity,” Thacker notes. “Setting up a system in which people help each other out works during vacations and in general. Skeleton crews cannot be effective teams unless everyone pitches in at 110 percent at times. So always be willing to help others. It will be noticed and will come back to you.”

Spread the Extra Work

Chances are you’re not the only one working during these low-staff times, so it’s a good idea to pool resources with other people in your department or office. Get everyone together -- with your supervisor-approved priorities -- and divide up the extra work. Tasks may range from staffing the reception area to managing a project, planning meetings or working with vendors. “Distribute the workload, not based on job titles, but on the work each team member does best,” Douglas suggests.

Stay Focused

It’s easy to get distracted when you’ve got extra, possibly unfamiliar, work on your to-do list. Staying focused on the critical tasks will help you get results and recognition. “If you have three high-priority items and the resources to only do one of them at a time, you’ve got to choose which one goes first,” says Edward, author of Moving Forward: Turning Good Intentions into Great Results. “Finish it completely before moving on to the next high-priority item. Ignore your own inner voice and possibly other people’s voices telling you to work on everything at the same time.”

Take Breaks

This may seem counter-intuitive, but stepping away from your work can actually help you be more effective. “Working through our breaks and lunches increases distress levels, because you don’t give your body and mind a chance to return to a resting state,” Edward says. “We can only work at peak performance for limited periods of time. Taking scheduled breaks allows us to recharge, refresh and resume work without getting burned out.”

Plan Ahead

One small activity can make a big difference in managing work when shorthanded. “End every day with 'a plan for tomorrow,'" says Douglas. "Leave each day with a simple list of the top three things you must get done for the next day. Be realistic. Aim small -- score big.”

Report Results

Don't forget to report your accomplishments and results in an organized fashion. This will help your supervisor keep up with what you’ve done and see your value to the company.

It's not easy keeping a short-staffed workplace humming while working during the holidays. But it can be a great opportunity to showcase your talents and flexibility. “If you take control and take productive steps to address challenges, fix problems and seize opportunities, you will feel more engaged and energized,” Douglas notes. “You will have proven results for your efforts -- and possibly even greater job security.” 

Latest Jobs

Posted: 05/30/2015
Posted: 05/30/2015
Columbus, OH, 43201
Improveit! Home Remodeling
Posted: 05/30/2015
Dayton, OH, 45414
Swift Transportation
Posted: 05/30/2015
Western, IL
Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, LLC
Posted: 05/30/2015
Ontario, CA

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.8.0.34-220