8 November 2018

If you want to take a sabbatical from work, one of your biggest concerns might be how they are going to manage without you.

More importantly, you might worry that they manage so well without you that they don't really want you back!

If you're planning to take a sabbatical from work, it's crucial that you will be missed. That doesn't mean doing a bad handover to whoever's going to do your job while you're swanning off around the world. It means making sure that while the place can tick along OK without you, everything is much better when you're there.

So, with that in mind, here are some ways to make yourself indispensable at work.

1. Stalk the repair people

I put this first because it's one of my favourites. When a man (and it is usually a man) comes to fix the coffee machine, the photocopier, or the router, offer him a cup of tea, then hang around while he does his thing.

Normally a repair person will show you what's gone wrong and how to avoid it in future. If you ask nicely, he can also give you advice on getting the best out of the machine, whether that's how to do basic maintenance, or how to do an easy fix yourself.

The upshot of this is that you will be the person who fixes things around the office, or at least stops things breaking!

No-one will notice that you're doing this while you're there, but as soon as you've gone, that expensive repair guy is going to be there a lot more frequently. And stuff will take longer to get fixed as well.

2. Become an expert on something on the computer system

Similar to the above, your expertise will get taken for granted while you're there, and be very much missed when you're gone.

It's up to you what you choose to become an expert in, but it should be something that is used fairly frequently in the office. It doesn't necessarily have to be an entire program or service either - you can choose just to master a bit of it that makes everyone's job a bit easier. The program or app's help section should be the first place you start when you want to learn a bit more, then you can do tutorials if they're available. YouTube videos are really helpful too as they can show you an actual process.

You'll end up being the person people call on when they can't remember how to do something in Excel, or are having trouble with their social media scheduling app.

Remember to be apparently helpful while actually not doing the most helpful thing, which is to teach them how to do it. Buzz in, click a few buttons, then clear off again before they can see what you've done. Sneaky, yes, but this is about being missed, not helping everyone stand on their own two feet!

3. Make everyone feel good

If you're the person who can single-handedly lift the mood of a workplace, you are going to be missed when you go away, even if you suck at your job. You don't have to be always happy happy joy joy - and in fact you shouldn't, particularly if you're not naturally like that, as you'll just come across as fake.

No, the way to bring everyone's mood up needs to be more subtle, and more genuine. When you think something nice about a colleague, tell them - notice a haircut, tell them if they did a great job, even just say "you look well" if you can't think of anything else.

If you're not a natural compliment-giver, it's time to start - gradually at first or it'll look like you're up to something (which you are, of course). Remember, your compliments must be real - people will see straight through you if you tell them they look good and they look like crap.

Even complimenting someone to someone else works. Saying something nice about a person you work with to another colleague, or even their boss, makes you look good as well as them. People will assume you say nice things about them too - the opposite of the office backstabber you know is gossiping about you behind your back!

Another way of making people feel good without dishing out compliments is basic manners - something that too many of us forget these days. Not just "please" and "thank you" but "after you" and "you're welcome" all go a long way to making people feel appreciated.

4. Act pleased to see everyone

Similar to the above, this is about making other people feel good when you're there - making the pain of your departure that much harder to bear.

You don't need to act like an excited puppy - just to acknowledge people's presence. Too many of us don't even look up when a colleague walks in the door, we're all staring at our screens, or at our desks, or out of the window. A simple hello and a smile when someone walks in can make a huge amount of difference to the start of someone's day - and can set the tone for the rest of it. Standing up when someone walks in a room - when it's appropriate - will instantly make them feel valued as well.

And at the end of the day, when your workmates are leaving, you don't need to burst into floods of tears. Just a simple goodbye and a wish for a good evening or a great weekend is enough! By acknowledging when someone is departing, you'll be the person everyone misses when it's your turn to leave.

4. Ask for advice or a favour

This is one of those left-field ones that most people don't think about and can be used even on people who don't like you.

Asking for advice makes the person you're talking to feel important, wise and generous. It's hard to say no when someone asks for advice, or a simple favour, and most of us find that our opinion of the person doing the asking goes up - it's really hard to do something for someone you don't like, so we feel as if we like them more! After all, if someone is asking you for your opinion, they must at least recognise that you are clever.

This works on anyone of course, friendly and hostile colleagues alike. If they don't have anything you need professionally, asking for advice for a personal reason can be good. For example, if you know someone is a keen gardener, ask for their advice on your houseplants. Ask a whisky connoisseur for some recommendations for a present for your dad. You get the idea.

5. Bring food

Simple, but effective. Everyone likes free food and if you're bringing it, you'll be missed when you take off on your sabbatical.

If you can cook, homemade food is a lovely treat, as these days, a lot of people don't get much of that (and shop bought just doesn't compare). Freshly baked goods like biscuits, cakes and muffins always go down a storm.

If you can't cook, just pick up something on your way in - a box of doughnuts or bag of cookies from the good bakery.

If your office is on a health kick, or you want to do something different, bring in fruit. You can also go on a hot drinks run - either in the office if you have facilities, or down to the coffee shop if you don't.

There's another aspect of bringing food in beyond the fact that most of us like to stuff our faces. Food brings a real sense of community and helps with a pleasant workplace atmosphere. Doing the coffee run or making everyone a cup of tea is also a leveller and is a great example of servant leadership - you don't think you're "above" making or fetching drinks for everyone, and people will notice and appreciate that.

6. Be great at your job

Finally, the big one. Nothing will make you more missed than if you're are actually awesome at your job.

Firstly, do you have a good sense of how you're doing? Most of us are not very good at knowing how good (or bad) we are at something so it's useful to have external information. What are your appraisals and feedback like? When was the last time someone said "well done" or "great job"? Has there been any talk of promotions or pay rises?

No matter where you are on the scale of "sucks" to "awesome", there's always room for improvement. Take a course, offer to join in on a task, brush up on your skills. Ask your line manager for how you can add more value - or if you have ideas, share these and offer to resolve a problem or take the lead on a project. Ask to work with someone you think you can learn from.

Update your LinkedIn profile too - nothing will give you a better idea of your worth than if other companies are banging down your door to hire you - or are taking no notice of you.


Once you have made yourself indispensable, you can ask for a sabbatical, safe in the knowledge that they will beg you to come back again!