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Calling Out Co-workers Who Call You On Vacation

You're vacationing in a warm, pretty place (or taking a "staycation," nothing wrong with that!) when a co-worker contacts you out of the blue to ask a very basic, work-related question.

Here's a basic question: Why can't your co-worker handle it himself and leave you alone?

If you've ever experienced this common workplace problem on holiday, then you're not alone: A poll conducted on behalf of mental health charity Mind reveals nearly one-quarter (24%) of 1,250 employees surveyed have received work calls on vacation.

If it's that bad in Britain, then it's probably worse here as we enter the dog days of August! We've all been there. Our co-worker is on vacation, and we have a question pertaining to a problem, a project, or a client. For whatever reason, we feel like we can't answer it ourselves.

So we ping our vacationing co-worker with an "urgent" flag. Let's hope the answer isn't sitting front and center on our desk, with a big, neon Post-It note that reads in all-caps: "Here's the client file, you may get a call from them while I'm out of town."


This is where great listening and communication skills, adequate cross-training, competent management, and fantastic follow-through come into play. How departments treat co-workers on vacation is directly related to the strength of training in all four areas.

Really, this shouldn't be so hard. Before leaving the office on vacation, we should make sure we've tied up as many loose ends as possible to ease the load on our beleaguered co-workers. We should anticipate any major issues that could arise in our absence. This client can be very demanding and might call while I'm gone, here's the scoop. You get the idea.

If we're covering for a co-worker who is leaving on vacation, then we should make sure to ask questions (and listen closely to the answers) so we are prepared (confidently...) to handle problems in a pinch.

Perhaps our co-worker will return the favor someday when we go on vacation. (Unless we work with vengeful co-workers who take delight in turning our beach time into a working vacation through constant contact, that is. That's an entirely different post, however.)

Bottom line: If you're thinking about bugging a co-worker who is on vacation today, stop and think twice before doing so. Is it really necessary? Can you work through the problem on your own, perhaps with assistance from another co-worker, simply so your vacationing co-worker can relax and truly get away from it all?

Also, just how important on a scale of 1 to 10 is this work-related question? (10 for the business will lose big money or fall apart without asking it; 1 for trivial matters such as "Where did you put the stapler?") Know the difference, and set boundaries.

What can wait until this co-worker returns? (Yes, some things can wait a few days. Really.)

Of course, our chances of being bothered on vacation depend on our line of work. Some jobs are easier to leave behind than others. Perhaps you have one of these jobs. Good for you.

With any luck, our vacationing co-worker will return to the office with a big smile on his or her face, rested and ready to tackle work once again.

Thanks for not bugging me while I was gone, guys! Our co-worker probably won't say this out loud, but he or she will, no doubt, be thinking it. Good job.


  1. Some great points here! It can be very annoying when you're trying to enjoy time away from work - but work follows you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

    1. Glad you liked the post, Jordan. Thanks for your comment, and enjoy the summer!

  2. A colleague Im always covering like to message me while ‘she’ is on holiday, even though I dont message her to ask questions (hoping that she would do the same when I go on holiday) sending me stupid reminders even after leaving handovers... so annoying. And yes, she messages me everyday on my holidays


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