How to Cope When You're Doing the Work of 2 People

Most of us have periods where we feel like we're doing the job of two people. But what if you're actually doing the job of two people? Situations like that arise all the time, especially if your company is going through layoffs or you have a team member quit before a replacement is found.

The problem with taking on a second person's workload is that it can cause you to fall behind on your core responsibilities. It can also drive you to a point where you're stressed constantly and have virtually no time to tend to or enjoy your personal life. Therefore, if you're doing the job of two people, it's time to take action. Here's how.

1. Figure out which responsibilities you want to hang on to

Taking on another person's workload might seem like a burden, but it could end up being an opportunity in disguise -- especially if you're tasked with new responsibilities you happen to enjoy tackling. Now obviously, managing the work of two people isn't sustainable for the long haul, but before you attempt to unload your new tasks, figure out whether it'll be good for your career to keep some of them.

For example, say you've taken over a departed colleague's load, and that requires you to spend time compiling data and creating marketing reports. You may not enjoy sifting through data so much, but if you find the marketing reports engaging, and feel that continuing to produce them will help your career, then that's a task you should aim to retain.

2. Try not to complain

By taking on a second workload, you're showing your boss that you're a team player who's willing to step up when the company needs it. That said, you can't go on doing all of that extra work forever, and clearly, there will come a point when you need to sit down with your manager and ask for some relief. When you have that discussion, however, do your best not to complain about the additional work you've been doing, because a bad attitude might negate the goodwill you could've otherwise bought for yourself.

Instead, approach that conversation from a place of practicality. Tell your manager that while you'd like to continue helping out as much as possible, you're fearful you won't have the time needed to focus on your core tasks. A good boss will realize that asking you to do two people's jobs on an ongoing basis just isn't reasonable, but if you maintain a positive outlook during that transition, it'll make you look good in the long run.

3. Establish a timeline for getting relief

The reason you're doing the job of two people probably boils down to an unexpected lack of resources, and that's not necessarily a situation your company can fix right away. Still, you deserve some sort of outside date at which the burden of that second workload (or at least a portion of it) will be lifted, so aim to get your manager to agree to a reasonable timeframe. For example, you might express your willingness to keep working long hours for another month, thereby giving your company time to hire someone to share that load. The key, however, is to get your boss on the same page so that if things don't improve within that period, you have a leg to stand on when it all gets to be too much.

Doing the work of two people is never easy, but with any luck, it'll be something you only do on a temporary basis. Until then, do your best to get organized so you're able to accomplish more with your days. And keep a detailed record of all the ways you step up, because it certainly makes a compelling argument for an eventual promotion or raise.

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