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Who Will Cover Your Work While You Are on Sabbatical?

Who's in the pool of candidates to do your job?

How to find the cheapest airfare to Bhutan?  What is the most valuable professional experience for my time away? Can I fit my family into a small Air Stream?

Planning a sabbatical is fraught with challenges, but the one causing many sabbatical go-ers to re-consider the sabbatical experience – or even cave – is: How will my work get done while I am gone?

When you decide to take a sabbatical offered by the company, realize you want to negotiate for six-weeks away or leave your freelance business behind, the most immediate concern is about “work.” How do I keep the business running?  Can my work flow continue and progress? Who will do my job get done while I am gone? (In other words, who will not mess me up?)

While some small business owners carry on a skeletal business, others shut down with a “bye-bye, I’ll be back” online message. Neither choice is feasible for those within a company.

The work must go on.  But what is “the work”?

Ask a sabbatical go-er to break down his or her role into activities and outcomes, and the response is, “That’s impossible to do. What I do is very complicated.”

With a little help and prodding from us, those same individuals discover, “Ahhh, yeah, okay, yes, – I can break my job down.” That done let’s move on to finding the best people to cover these buckets of work.

But wait, here’s another gigantic hurdle! Fed by an ego-centric view of one’s abilities, a complication floats in the mind of a high-achiever or nicely titled person – “No one can do the work better than me.” True, maybe.

Individuals who successfully implement solid work coverage plans find big surprises upon return from time away. With a total disconnect from the workplace, their job has been outstandingly executed.  A scary discovery perhaps – to find someone else can do parts of your job so well – but good for growing talent into a succession pipeline for the organization. And ultimately, good for the sabbatical go-er who can now delegate more confidently and move on to add other dimensions of his role. (See yS white paper: Time is the New Currency.)

The pool of candidates is an initial and important step to the success of the work coverage plan.  While there are six resources that can help individual sabbatical-goers and/or their managers structure work coverage, the questions of “who” might be in the pool is paramount. Often, someone with more passion than skills, outside of your immediate team or an introvert are best choices.

To help establish the best candidates for parts of your job, ask yourself:

What competencies are necessary to be successful in this work?

Who are the candidates who have the skills to be successful?

Are there others who have a component of the necessary skill set who would grow with this experience?

Are there individuals who might have the passion for doing the tasks but not be fully fledged in the skill set?

What is the pay-off for someone covering this aspect of your job?

What other parts of the company could benefit from being involved?

Who will cover your work while you are on sabbatical? Establishing a collection of possible people is the beginning of work coverage outcomes with individuals beaming at the chance to learn and shine at parts of your job.  But, it’s only the beginning.

Why would someone want to cover your work when they have their own work and career to manage? Great question for my next post.


Parts of this post adapted from“A Comprehensive Program Toolkit: A How-To Guide for Implementing Your Company’s Sabbatical Strategy.”

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