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8 Best Ways To Ask Someone To Cover Your Shift

Emergencies can arise anytime, and your most meticulously thought-out schedule can go haywire. If you suddenly have something important come up on a workday and you cannot come for your shift, someone has to cover for you if the work cannot be avoided. The best people to help you out are your coworker when that happens.

Of course, you can ask your manager if you can complete the work later. However, some jobs can’t wait, primarily if you work with customers or operate machinery. The work has to go on even if you cannot come to work. Ask a coworker to fill in for you if that happens.

Asking a coworker to cover your shift can be challenging. While in some cases, especially if your coworker is also a good friend, you can call them and ask them to cover for you. However, in some cases, even your most amiable coworker might be unable to cover the shift, even if they wanted to.

Hence, knowing how to ask a coworker to cover your shift is very important. And you should also return the favor whenever possible.

Why You May Have to Ask a Coworker to Cover Your Shift?

Why You May Have to Ask a Coworker to Cover Your Shift

You may be held back and cannot come to work for several reasons. Some of them could be:

  • You have to keep a medical appointment.
  • You suddenly got called to your children’s school.
  • You or any of your loved ones suddenly fell sick.
  • You got delayed on the road due to traffic conditions, or your car broke down.
  • Your pet suddenly fell ill.
  • Your apartment or house had some issues with utilities, which had to be resolved immediately.
  • A friend asked for some urgent help, and you could not refuse.
  • You are stuck out of town after a vacation due to transport or flight issues and can’t resume working on the date you said you would.

Apart from these, there could be any number of emergencies due to which you may have to miss your shift and ask someone else to cover it for you.

How to Ask Your Coworker to Cover Your Shift?

While you may need someone to cover your shift, you must also understand that your coworker may be unavailable. After all, they have their obligations as well. Following are some of the things that you can do.

1. Ask as Early as Possible

Ask as Early as Possible

As soon as you know you cannot work a shift on a particular day, ask your coworker immediately instead of waiting until the last moment. Your coworker will also have to move things around so that they can work an extra shift.

Hence, be mindful of their schedule and give them time to rearrange their work so they can cover for you without causing much difficulty.

2. Offer an Exchange

One of the best ways to ensure your coworker covers for you is to offer an exchange. Most coworkers agree to exchange shift slots and timings if you agree to cover for them in return. For example, if they cover for you on a Wednesday, promise to cover their shift the following Thursday.

However, ensure you’re also available to work their shift and don’t have to cancel at the last moment. Otherwise,  it could frustrate your coworker and strain your relationship.

3. State Your Reasons

State Your Reasons

It’s always a good idea to tell your coworker why you ask them to cover your shift. If you do not have a close relationship outside work, you do not have to go into much detail.

However, you would do well to state what has prevented you from working your shift. That will increase the chances of your coworker agreeing, rather than simply telling them they must cover for you.

4. Follow The Right Protocol

Some workplaces have no strict rules about covering shifts, and the employers are lenient enough. As long as the work gets done, they do not mind their employees covering for each other.

However, some workplaces are quite stringent, and you must record that your coworker covered one of your shifts or vice versa. In such cases, be sure to inform your manager and send them an email informing the arrangement. It will prevent you or your coworker from getting into trouble.

5. Be Polite And Respectful

Be Polite And Respectful

While asking your coworker to cover your shift, be polite and respect their timings. They might be your best friends at work. But it would be best if you still acknowledged that they are doing you a favor, and likewise, you should be grateful to them. having a lot of work pressure. In such cases, look for someone else who can cover for you.

6. Be Flexible

Being flexible while asking a coworker to cover for you is essential. For example, you may be mostly working day shifts, but they ask you to cover a night shift for them in return.

Or, they might ask you to do some extra work which they would have done if they didn’t have to cover for you. In such cases, be ready to compromise and be flexible. It will improve workplace dynamics, and you can have a good working relationship which could be helpful in the future.

7. Do a Follow-Up

Do a Follow-Up

Do a quick follow-up to ensure your coworker remembers to cover your shift if they agreed beforehand. After all, your shift is outside their work schedule, and they might forget, even if they had agreed to cover for you.

A quick follow-up ensures they remember to cover your shift, and you can rest assured knowing your work is done. A simple text message reminding them is all it will take, and your coworker will also be thankful for reminding them.

8. Ask The Right Person

It is essential to ask the right person to cover your shift. Do not ask someone with whom your relationship at work is strained or with someone with whom you have a lot of professional rivalry.

They may cancel the arrangement at the last moment, and then you would have no one to turn to. Hence, pick your coworker intelligently while making the request.

On the other hand, ask someone who knows your job. For example, if you are a front-office executive, do not ask a coworker who is an accountant to cover for you. They won’t know what to do.

What to Do if Your Coworker Cannot Cover For You?

What to Do if Your Coworker Cannot Cover For You

It’s best if you prepare yourself for rejection. Your coworker has their own responsibilities and health concerns, and they might not be able to cover for you, even if they had good intentions.

In that case, you must ask someone else or rearrange your schedule.

Please tell your manager that you tried to find someone to cover for you, but you could not. If you state your reasons and tell them you tried everything, they might offer to cover the shift themselves. Or, they may give you that day off and ask you to work an extra shift some other day to take care of the pending work.

If you plan, then you can rearrange your schedule accordingly.

How to Engage With a Coworker While Asking to Cover Your Shift?

How to Engage With a Coworker While Asking to Cover Your Shift

Once you ask a coworker to cover your shift, they may agree or disagree.

Looking out for each other improves the quality of work and reduces undue stress, and helps everyone to grow.

If your coworker covers for you one day, show your gratitude by sending them a note of thanks or asking them for a drink as a mark of appreciation. Cover for them the next time they ask you to.

On the other hand, if they decline to do so while stating their reasons, be respectful of that as well. Do not be resentful or act cold with them because they refused.

Put yourself in their shoes. Try to think whether it would have been possible for you to cover for them if they asked you at the last moment. Or if you had lots of work of your own or you were going through a difficult phase.

If you find no one, speak to your manager, and some solution will present itself.

How to Decline Covering a Shift if a Coworker Asks You All The Time?

When you ask a coworker to cover for you, you may have to offer an exchange to make that happen. Once you have thanked them for covering for you, you may end with, “I owe you one.”

However, some coworkers take this opportunity and ask you to cover for them frequently after that. You can cover for them once, even twice, to express your gratitude that they covered your shift. However, beyond that, it may not be possible for you to cover for them.

If the coworker keeps asking you too often, tell them you have already compensated them and can’t cover for them as frequently as they are asking for. You may feel a little bad at first, but you cannot go on covering for them all the time because they covered for you once. It is important to know where to draw the line.


Knowing that your coworkers have your back in times of emergencies is a wonderful thing. It creates healthy workplace relationships, some turning into lifelong friendships.

Some coworkers are so lovely that they will agree to cover for you when you tell them about your problems, even before you have asked them. Such coworkers are a blessing to work with. Try to rearrange your schedule next time there is an emergency; if all else fails, you can count on a coworker to fill you in.