Who is your backup on the job?

You are out of the office enjoying a vacation, recovering from surgery, attending a funeral, or other personal endeavor. Yet, someone needs to know how to run a report, resolve a declined transaction, or find an account number. Whatever the issue is, it likely is not an emergency, but no one is prepared to pinch hit in your absence. Then there is the issue of work piling up while you are out, putting you behind for days or even weeks. To avoid the hassles, some people choose to stay connected to work at all times, but is this really a good solution? Following are signs of trouble, questions to explore with your manager, and actions you can take to improve your out of office situation.

Signs of Trouble

  1. No designated backup for you
  2. No documented procedures for how to perform your job duties (or they are outdated) 
  3. Your backup has not received sufficient training
  4. Your backup seldom or never fulfills your role
  5. Wrong person is designated as your backup 

Any one of these can cause work disruptions and headaches. Organizations that are able to avoid such trouble commonly follow a continuous improvement methodology like Lean or similar. This typically results in more cross-training and job rotation, allowing someone to become proficient in a backup role. At a minimum, work with your manager to clearly identify what should happen in your absence.  

Questions to Explore with Your Manager

  1. What are their expectations for when you are out of the office?
  2. Who is the backup? Are they the right person (e.g., someone who can follow instructions as well as find answers when needed)?
  3. What are their expectations for the backup? What tasks will they do versus what will be left for your return?
  4. While someone serves as your backup, will this create issues in their own job? You do not want to trade one problem for another.
  5. How often should your backup receive training?
  6. For practice purposes, should your backup perform some duties while you are in the office? 
Having a satisfactory plan for addressing your job duties in your absence will make your time away easier and contribute to smoother office operations. 

Having a satisfactory plan for addressing your job duties in your absence will make your time away easier and contribute to smoother office operations. 

Actions You Can Take

You cannot force your management to adequately address the backup issue. However, the following steps are within your control:

  • Ensure procedures for doing your job are current, clear, and accessible. Focus on documenting what is most important first, such as tasks and situations likely to arise in your absence.
  • Establish appropriate system access for your backup.
  • Communicate who your backup is to cardholders, the card issuer, etc.

With some planning, you can hopefully breathe a little easier while out. 

See more content on program management...

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

Subscribe to the Blog

Receive notice of new blog posts.