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Employee Absence: How to Fill a Colleague-Shaped Hole

13 August 2018 by Kieran McLoone
Colleague Shaped Hole

Missing a key member of your team can be a real kick in the teeth. Any cohesive group divides responsibility up equally, so an absence pushes their workload onto others.

But if you plan effectively and conduct successful hand-overs, then an absent colleague isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, it can be like they never left.

Communicate Effectively Beforehand

This obviously depends on the nature of the absence. If a colleague is suddenly struck down by illness, speaking with them about current projects might be a challenge. If they’re stuck at home on the sofa, Lemsip in one hand and a bundle of tissue in the other, then answering work emails and calls is probably very low on their priorities list.

However, if it’s an absence such as a scheduled trip abroad, then working out what needs doing is essential.

In an ideal world, the soon-to-be absent employee will inform those around them of what they’re up to and what can be completed. If this isn’t the case, then have a sit down with them and find out if there’s anything you can assist with.

Delegate Work in a Tailored Way

This might seem obvious, but it’s important to remember what skills different members of the team possess and divide the absent colleague’s workload in a structured way.

Any effective manager will know what their staff are good at, but as with everything, the vital word is ‘communication’. If you think you’d be particularly good at a task that needs doing, then putting yourself forwards to take on a heavier load will come across very well.

Make the Return Seamless

Coming back to work after a long hiatus can be a bit jarring – especially if the handover process beforehand wasn’t conducted smoothly.

If an employee has been absent for a considerable period of time, make sure to have a catch-up meeting with them upon return, so that you can fill them in on any important goings-on or new projects. They’ll thank you for it, and it’ll ensure a smooth transition back to normality.

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