Career Advice, Watercooler

Is Everyone On Vacation Except You? Here’s How to Cope

Man reading letter and drinking coffee

It’s that time of year again when everyone and their sister is putting in requests for time off and your boss has to say, “No” to someone on that list.

You may already have a sense that it’s going to be you, or you may not have requested off at all. Either way, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. It’s perfectly possible – nay, likely, – that working while everyone is on vacation could be great news for you.

So, whether you lost the epic rock-paper-scissors battle or you just didn’t feel like using your personal leave for the holidays this year, here are six ways to cope when everyone is on vacation except you:

1. Chill your “Automatic yes”

It might feel like because you’re the only one around you should say yes to every request that comes through your inbox, from clients to co-workers to part-time interns.

In reality, being the only person on duty means you need to be more careful with your time, not less careful. So when requests come through, compare them to your list of priorities and don’t hesitate to say, “No,” or “Not today.”

2. Get your boss on board

Speaking of a list of priorities – get that list in writing and get your boss’s approval before she heads out the door. It’s going to be a lot easier to say, “I’ll be happy to take care of this by the end of next week!” when you know your boss will back you up on the time delay.

Don’t miss this post to be better prepared for next year: How Soon Should You Put In for Holiday Vacation?

3. Make a list of high-intensity activities

When the holidays come around and you find out everyone is on vacation except you, it can be a little too easy to forget how many times throughout the year you walked in and wished everyone was already gone.

One way you can make the best of it is to gather a list of high-focus and high-intensity projects that you can focus on when you’re whittling away at hours and hours in the office alone. The sense of accomplishment that comes with tackling these kinds of projects without distractions will go a long way to helping you forgive your co-workers for ditching you.   

4. Don’t forget the virtual help

According to recent Glassdoor research, 2 in 3 Americans report working on vacation. That means you may have more support than you thought, they’re just not in the office with you.

Before you look up and everyone is on vacation, send an email to your team to find out if anyone is putting in hours while they’re on the road, then keep them in mind as work and requests come in that you can delegate. Not only will it help you to feel like you have some support, but it’ll help them, out, too: anyone working from home during the holidays is likely eager to pitch in to make it clear they’re actually working when they’re out of the office.

5. Deep clean your desk

We can’t be the only ones who get really excited about a desk freshly cleaned with essential oil cleaning wipes and stocked with pom-pom pens. If – somehow – there’s a lull when everyone’s out on vacation, take the opportunity to freshen, spruce, and tidy in ways you haven’t been able to this year:

  • Take everything off your desk and wipe it down with something that smells nice (then mop everything you use daily: laptop keys, keyboard, mouse, clock, etc.)
  • Inspect your pencils and pens for use and replace as needed (or just for fun)
  • Finally, sort through the stack of paper reminders you thought would work better than phone alerts
  • Extra credit: hide kind notes and small treats around the office for a pleasant surprise when your coworkers get back

6. Focus on what you do get

‘Tis the season to be grateful, right? If you’re the only one working or you find yourself carrying more than your fair share of on-call duties, don’t let that suck the joy out of the time you do get to have with your family and friends.

Plan out what time you’ll get away from work in advance so that when you are enjoying time away you can conscientiously distance yourself from work and totally immerse yourself in the moment – even if it’s literally just a moment.

Want the last laugh? Read this: 19 Amazing Companies Offering the Best Vacation Packages

Are you flying solo this holiday season while everyone is on vacation? It doesn’t have to be a punishment. If you use this time wisely, you’ll be just as refreshed as your co-workers when they come back in the office after the holidays.


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