SURVEY SAYS: Work Coverage During Vacation

During this time of year, more employees take vacation.

As I’m getting ready to do so myself, there are certain tasks for which I need to secure coverage while I’m out. Other tasks, I know, will be waiting for me when I return.              

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Who covers your work while you’re on vacation?”

None of the responding readers indicated all of their work gets covered while they are on vacation, and more than half (52%) said only essential or emergency tasks get covered. Twenty-two percent of respondents reported that essential and emergency tasks get covered, and maybe some other tasks, while more than one-quarter (26%) said none of their work gets covered.

Similarly, nearly one-quarter (24.7%) of respondents indicated that no one covers their work while they are on vacation. For 19.2%, a combination of their boss, co-workers or employees they supervise cover for them. More than 16% said a co-worker covers for them, 5.5% said several co-workers, 13.7% said their boss, and 11% said one of the employees they manage/supervise. For 2.7% of respondents, several employees they manage/supervise cove their work while they are on vacation. Nearly 7% reported that they check in and handle their own work while on vacation.

Among those who chose to leave verbatim comments, most lamented about how much work has to be done before and after taking a vacation, with one reader asking, “Wait, what? I can get work covered while on vacation?” Many just check in and work during vacation to try to get ahead of the backlog awaiting them. However, one reader chooses to look at it positively, “Although it can be overwhelming to come back to a pile of work, it is certainly a great reminder that the daily work we do really does mean something.” Then, there were those who lamented about the coverage they supposedly have, “The question should have been who is supposed to cover your work on vacation?” one reader says, while another notes, “My boss covers my work when I’m on vacation. I fix everything when I get back.” Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Dust covers my work until I return.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!


No one should work while they are on vacation. Nevertheless, if I don't read the email everyday it would take me a week to get through it all. Terrifying.

I don't remember the last time I took "vacation" and didn't take my laptop to check e-mail, etc, almost daily.

I'm only taking two days this summer and those are to move my daughter to college. No work, just tears.

Although we do our best to try to cover vacations, it takes up to 3+ weeks to catch-up upon return. It's sometimes not worth it to take a vacation!

My boss and I try to never have both of us gone at the same time. It has happened a couple of times and from the reaction of the head of our department, you would have thought the end of the world occurred and made her look bad! Lol!

When I cover for someone else, his or her work gets done while I let mine suffer! I don't want anyone to complain that I don't give good coverage while he or she is out!

It's always waiting for me when I get back.

I have noticed that the higher up the food chain you are, the more connected you are expected to be - you are never off-line, even when on vacation. It's good to be a plebe.

Coverage? Maybe just leaving and seeing what gets accomplished while I'm out sounds good. With less-structured lines of authority, it's become more problematic to arrange for absences from the office.

The most time I've taken in the last 10 years is 2 consecutive days. Why? See #1 and #2, above. And then they wonder why I have 400+ hours of PTO accrued and why I don't take it...

Verbatim (cont.)

Vacation for domestic employees means checking email and being on call in case something critical needs responding to. My last "vacation", I checked email every day. It was a vacation from my desk and office but not a vacation from work.

I only take vacation when the pain of feeling drained outweighs the pain of having to catch up when I get back. Only emergencies are covered while I am gone, so I have a lot of digging out to do when I return.

Our company runs very lean so when someone is out, coworkers have very little time to cover anything except essential tasks and emergencies. Although it can be overwhelming to come back to a pile of work, it is certainly a great reminder that the daily work we do really does mean something.

I have 10 weeks of vacation available (the maximum) but no coverage. "Vacation" means also having to work remotely which I object to.

It seems to me that in America today, at least for office workers/professionals, employers no longer pay anything in order to have extra people cover for those who are out on the vacation time that employers offer, instead employers merely allow you to move your work around so you can take time "off"

You should have allowed more than one answer to #2 above. Several of the employees I supervise cover some tasks, but unfortunately I usually check in and handle my own work when I am on vacation.

I work really hard to get all caught up before I go on vacation and I work really hard when I return. When you work in a small office this is just the way it is. Only essential items are handled when I'm out. Of course, they can email or text me if something comes up. Vacations are still worth it!

Wait, what? I can get work covered while on vacation?

I say a little prayer before I leave and remind everyone those three little numbers- 911

I work on vacation. 🙁

Verbatim (cont.)

My vacations are scheduled around paydays and other important events as there is no back up. Not a good situation, but one I have put up with for 18 years. Can be pretty tough in smaller companies.

The question should have been Who is supposed to cover your work on vacation- Answer - Several Coworkers who are given detailed instructions for what is expected and how to accomplish those tasks. The next question should be: Who actually covers your work on vacation? No one with the exception of the emergencies that they cannot ignore.

Love Vacation hate coming home to 1000's of emails so I take my computer with me and answer what I can while on vacation and delete the rest!

Sometimes I think the only purpose vacation serves is to help me unwind enough to keep me from exploding when I return to a five day backlog of work.

I'm not familiar with this word "vacation". What does it mean?

I have had to leave my daughter in the hospital because I needed to come to work. Sad but true.

Never gone more than a week. As the audits I work on normally takes 12 to 30 months why transfer the case work. Get to do it myself. Then again, normally not assigned to work with anyone else on the case for the parts that I do. LOL

I always have my automated out-of-office message set, along with voice mail. If it's an absolute emergency, people will contact my designated person. The vast majority of items are just waiting to welcome me back upon my return.

My boss covers my work when I'm on vacation. I fix everything when I get back...

A sign of job security: no one can cover you while you're on break. Imagine the fun waiting for you after 3 months for maternity leave...

Some non-essential work is covered by my assistant.

Verbatim (cont.)

One of the employees I supervise covers workers compensation. I am on call for any other essential or emergency tasks.

I remember when vacation was truly vacation, but over the years it has turned into vacation meaning 'work in a nicer, sunnier place'. I still work while on a vacation to make sure someone isn't asking for something important.

It's a marathon run the week or two before I leave for vacation in an attempt to catch up, let alone get ahead. It's much of the same when I return from vacation and I find myself quickly burnt out and in need of yet another vacation!

Dust covers my work until I return.

We are a small department so it can be burdensome. As the head of the department, I usually check emails and talk to my support person at least once a day while on vacation. Looking forward to growing the department so this doesn't have to continue....

Our three person dedicated team based approach with clients leads to few continuity issues when we are away on vacation as everyone on our team is capable of addressing questions whether they be very simple or very complex issues or projects that require escalated expertise & guidance

Vacation is great, but also tough. I usually have to put in long hours in advance and again when I return, not to mention checking email while I'm out! Retirement is sounding pretty good!

I still check email and voicemail each day.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.