Covering For A Colleague

Throughout your career, you have most likely been asked to cover another admins role during their absence, or you may have a reciprocal arrangement already in place. Some of us are lucky enough to be back-filled by external temps, but many of us take on the 2nd hat to help our fellow admin colleagues out so they can enjoy some much deserved time off. 

Planning is key for a realistic hand-over and hand-back. Be sure to book in time for the initial handover allowing for the person covering to be able to ask questions. A few tips from our experience are:

Reconcile. Be sure to reconcile your work. This includes any projects you can feasibly finish before you leave. Be sure to check  any unread emails to see if there’s anything urgent that requires acting in your absence. 

Delegate. If you haven’t been able to complete your to-do list before jetting off on holidays, delegate the tasks you were unable to complete to your colleague/s.  If you are a senior-level admin who supervises other admins, distribute tasks among the team where possible. If you don’t supervise any staff, look to seek assistance from an admin you trust. Assure them that you will return the favour when they need cover. 

Detailed Notes. Be sure to leave detailed notes on what was delegated and to whom. Note what you completed and what you did not complete. Make a list of what needs immediate action upon your return. List every task you have; ideally in a project management tool like Trello or Click. Whilst the information may be fresh in your mind right now, after a week or two of being away, you might be lucky to remember your computer password! 

Desk Prep. If you won’t want things moved around on your desk, put things away safely. LOCK AWAY YOUR STAPLER! They are the first to go missing 🙂 If you have your own printer, be sure to fill up your paper trays and replace any low ink. You may be able to change the printer cartridge with your eyes closed, but if your exec is suddenly inkless, well…you know how that will unfold for the person covering you. Check your supplies and reorder what you are low on.  Note where you keep supplies as well, such as stationery and snacks. Snacks are key ha-ha. Leave procedures in an obvious place.

The Admin Bible. This is literally has everything someone needs to know about your exec in your absence from their wive and kids names, to their Qantas club number to their dietary requirements. Leave a list of key contacts, an org chart of who your execs  line managers are if they are not already aware. 

Calendar. Ensure your executive’s calendar is in order before you leave. This includes things like, if you purchased tickets to a show for them on a date you’ll be away, pre-print the tickets and leave them in an envelope in an obvious place. Have you made any restaurant reservations? Ensure these are all confirmed, and again, in an obvious place or calendar note with the contact name, address, and phone number of the restaurant. Leave a clear to-do list of what needs to be done and an understanding of priority and urgency should be set. Highlight any upcoming tasks, events and potential problems. 

Executive Handover. Schedule a meeting with your executive to update them on any matters they need to be aware of. Schedule some time for when you’re back to catch up on anything you missed while you were away.  This will also give you an opportunity to address any new action items that require immediate attention etc.

OOO. Set your Out Of Office on your company email account informing of when you left, when you will be returning and include the alternative contact/s for senders to connect with should they require immediate assistance. List the details of the admin who is covering for you. Provide their contact details on the email bounce-back. If there are any authorisation’s needed, email the relevant people and ensure you remain cc’d in. For example, if you book travel with a travel provider, introduce your cover so they can be authorised to book/pay for travel in absence etc. 

​​Ask for help. Sometimes when you’re providing help, you also need to ask for it. See if another admin can take notes for you at meetings you’ll miss so you can catch up when back in the office. Empower direct reports to take on more of the day-to-day tasks themselves. People are usually more than happy to take on a few extra bits here and there so that you can clock off for your holiday. 

Handing Back. Remember, nobody wants to come back from leave to a disorganised diary, an extensive list of things that weren’t done, expenses and complaints. Ask the admin who is covering your role to provide a full debrief with notes on your return to ensure a smooth hand-back.  

Thank you. On a personal note, we always like to say that a small thank you card or gift to the person who covered your role will always be greatly appreciated. We would love to hear your tips. Share your thoughts in the comments box below.