Martin Waxman

Spin Sucks Question: Managing Workflow During Vacations

By: Martin Waxman | June 28, 2019 | 
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internet trollsHappy summer!

It’s that time of year when we head out on vacation, take a few extra days off, and generally enjoy the warm, sunny days.

And that’s pretty, pretty amazing when you’re on the holiday receiving end.

But what if you’re the person (or team members) left behind, with a plate that’s now full or…overflowing?

Sure, your colleague did a stellar job briefing you, making lists, burning the midnight oil, and doing as much as they could beforehand.

In fact, that’s just what our content director, Whitney Danhauer did, before she went off on her holiday.

And you know something? I was really excited about writing this week’s #SpinSucksQuestion.

Except…things suddenly turned from anticipation to another task I needed to fit in.

OK, I will admit I’m a procrastinator by nature.

And well…let’s just say, maybe I should’ve been a bit more organized about this.

Of course, it’s not as though it hasn’t been on my mind.

Which is probably why I chose to ask our always lively community:

When a key person on your team goes on vacation, how do you manage workflow—that is, your job and theirs—while they’re away?

As always, our readers were super generous with their ideas, processes, and emoji-laden creative tips.

This Is Not Happening to Me

Kathryn Mason came right out and said what a lot of us may have been thinking:

Is “stay in denial that they are away” the wrong answer? 🙂

And from the sounds of it, Paige Worthy might need to give herself a good talking to:

Feels like the perfect time to catch up on stuff you can’t do when the key person is constantly pestering you. 😉

Spoiler alert, I am my key person. Team of one!

Lauren Anderson, who used to travel a lot for work, took a more practical approach:

When I was gone, I entrusted my PIC (Partner in Crime/PR Strategist), to put out any fires that flared up in my absence. 🙂

An App, An App, My Colleague for an App

Kristy Cartier said it was all about coordination—and one app:

Luckily, I have good co-workers who are organized, so it’s only a matter of dealing with the fires that pop up. Knock on wood that it’s been okay so far. We use Confluence, so that helps keep requests organized. I consider Confluence to be Jira with a nicer interface. It is customizable. We use it to submit work tickets to Creative or to Digital for emails. The team also uses it for project management such as a project launch or one with multiple team members involved.

Getting Workflow Management Down to a Science

Chris Williams, no stranger to planning, happens to excel at the “curse of being good at documentation”.

Each of us has what I call our “primary specialties” (those things around which our job is based), and “secondary specialties” (those skills we’re good at, but not as good as a co-worker). During vacations, taking up secondary specialties to help cover things only requires some scheduling. Maybe a few extra hours a week. In terms of primary specialties, we will do two things. First, have the team member work ahead on known projects so we have the material done. Second, we notify certain customers that Person A is on vacation, and we should prioritize what they need done now versus what we can do later. Not an exact science, but it tends to work all right.

Tyler Adams is also no slouch when it comes to the process front:

We take the weekly alignment meeting before someone goes on vacation to have the vacationer present what they’re concerned about over their time away. Then, we put their out-of-office message on a big screen and tweak as needed so the right responsibilities go to the right places.

On our team of five, that makes it much more of a conversation and often reveals some spots that the vacationer can leave be. We try to make it so that vacation can really be a vacation—as in, no need for someone to be online. That doesn’t mean we need to do their daily checklist, just that people reaching out to them have a clear idea of where to go once they get an out-of-office message.

When the Mice are Away…

Jimmie Quick enjoys the silence and uses it to optimize her time:

I kinda like it when the team goes quiet. I guess I like to just keep my head down and do my work. When people are out, there are fewer notifications/meetings/discussions. I find it a super time to be more productive.

But some people, like Howie Goldfarb, are solopreneurs, and have other challenges:

I haven’t been able to take a vacation or a trip in eight years. Been thinking how I don’t want to see any vacation photos on social media.

Howie, you deserve some time off!

Perhaps the Spin Sucks community could brainstorm a fun and Instagrammable staycation for you to enjoy.

But no guarantees!

We All Deserve a Break (Today)

And as Laura Petrolino says, that means when you do go away, take a brain break and make sure you tune out, relax, and enjoy the downtime.

That way, you’re ready to put in a few extra hours when it’s your colleague’s turn to go away.

I mean, relationships are all about reciprocity!

How do you manage workflow during your team’s holiday?

Share your stories—or pictures—below.

About Martin Waxman


Martin Waxman, MCM, APR, is CMO of Spin Sucks and runs a consultancy, Martin Waxman Communications. He leads digital and social media training workshops, conducts AI research, and is a Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning author, and one of the hosts of the Inside PR podcast. Martin teaches social media at McMaster University, UToronto SCS and Seneca College and regularly speaks at conferences and events across North America. Find him on Twitter @martinwaxman.