What are ad hoc duties? (Including benefits and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When working on a complicated project, matters sometimes arise and demand a quick solution, which requires an ad hoc response. Executives and team leaders may put together temporary teams to work on this independent issue until they fix it without taking considerable resources away from their main projects. By knowing the different types of ad hoc projects, you prepare for the possibility of becoming part of an ad hoc team. In this article, we look at ad hoc duties, list some examples and provide some benefits and tips for using them.

What are ad hoc duties?

Ad hoc duties arise throughout the course of your normal work when there are certain problems requiring an immediate response. This leads to the creation of ad hoc teams with their own responsibilities independent of their usual tasks. The exact nature of these duties varies significantly from team to team, as leaders establish these teams due to situations that fall outside their normal work and select members according to their ability to handle high-pressure tasks. These duties sometimes require just one person to complete them, as the situations fluctuate from simple resolutions to problems that require more support.

Related: How to manage ad hoc requests (with definition and tips)

Examples of ad hoc tasks

The ad hoc tasks rarely stay consistent between organisations, where different sectors often have their own ad hoc projects. It's possible to group these potential duties under several key categories, as the types of situations that result in creating these responsibilities and teams are relatively commonplace. By knowing the different duties that might require a short-notice response, you're able to prepare yourself for the unpredictable scenarios that may arise across any sector. With that in mind, here are some examples of typical ad hoc tasks you may contend with:

Administrative assistant matters

An administrative assistant has a clear job description, but many of their tasks fall outside of this, as their main duty is to help their boss with any necessary business matters. Assistants frequently take on tasks that aren't technically a part of their core responsibilities, as these allow their bosses to focus on their own responsibilities. If a non-urgent situation emerges, one that the executive may not have the time to tend to, they may delegate it to their assistant. This typically includes updating their office software, scheduling their travel plans, answering queries and taking calls on their behalf.

Related: What does a personal assistant do? Plus salary info

Writing documents and reports

Though many organisations write reports regularly, unexpected situations often necessitate unexpected paperwork, so you or an executive may delegate this duty to a team member who isn't dealing with another pressing matter. Strong paperwork and reporting are necessary for any organisation, giving them a paper trail to fall back on if needed. It also formalises a response if the problem occurs again. Examples of this may include a specific spreadsheet relating to a pre-existing project, a written report of a workplace disciplinary matter or a notice about a scheduled server outage.

Related: How to write a report in 9 steps (with definition and tips)

Organising events

Most events have dedicated staff to organise them, but logistical concerns sometimes require an ad hoc response. For example, if the organiser discovers somebody attending the event has an allergy to most of the food there, they may ask someone else to find something they like as an alternative. If there are any supply chain issues, someone investigates this and acts to ensure the event runs smoothly. The team may also be ready and available on the day of the event, just in case anything unexpected occurs.

Related: 10 tips showing you how to manage events effectively

Solving manufacturing issues

In manufacturing, it's always possible that a process may fail. For example, a production line may develop a mechanical fault, which disrupts production until a mechanic is available. In this situation, it might be possible to shift the contents of one line to another and continue production instead of ending the day early. This ad hoc task emerges unexpectedly, and addressing it quickly ensures that everyone keeps working without serious disruptions.

Updating social media

An organisation's social media accounts often have frequent updates outside usual content schedules, especially if something unexpected happens. For example, if a staff member has a birthday, the team leader may spontaneously ask you to post this moment on social media to demonstrate an informal side to their operation. Digital marketing staff are responsible for developing new ways of reaching people, which might involve unscheduled social media updates when a marketing team member believes the opportunity presents itself.

Related: The importance of social media growth plus tips to apply

The benefits of ad hoc projects

Ad hoc projects present several benefits to those who delegate these tasks and those who receive them. Their main advantages include the following:

They're an opportunity to prove yourself

If a team leader or executive gives you an ad hoc task, it may be because they trust your ability to handle high-pressure tasks. This may be unfamiliar territory for you, but that means you have an opportunity to showcase your ability to work under pressure on certain tasks that might fall outside your job description. This might impress your bosses and show that you're ready to take on new responsibilities. You might even unlock and develop a new skill while showing your ability to go beyond expectations.

Related: How to take initiative in the workplace: a 7-step guide

They provide a bespoke solution

The standard policy for dealing with certain matters on short notice might not be adequate for a specific situation. This means an ad hoc approach, which swiftly assembles team members to approach the problem in their own way, may be the best chance at success. If you're choosing the staff member or members to work on this solution, you're able to intuitively pick employees that you know have the necessary skills. No matter the unique scenario, the organisation guarantees that it approaches the duty or issue correctly and that they devise an innovative solution.

You're able to test your organisation's software strength

One particular type of ad hoc project is software testing, where experts effectively try to break the software by approaching it in ways that might not fit its design philosophy. This helps an organisation check for glitches which the designer may not notice until the ad hoc testing begins. The team members who receive the task specifically search for errors that may happen when using the software in unexpected ways. Depending on the software, someone breaking it might have catastrophic consequences, so a rigorous and impromptu testing schedule checks for critical errors.

Related: What are the different testing types that analysts use?

Tips for managing ad hoc tasks

In addition to knowing the benefits of ad hoc tasks, it's worth understanding how to manage these duties effectively. It's sometimes difficult to pull people together on a time-sensitive task that falls outside their usual responsibilities, but the following steps make it easier for everyone:

  • Put together a team. While some of these projects might only require one person, many may necessitate a full team of people working together. Select people from across different departments who have the skills to approach this situation or use this as a chance to test high-achieving staff members.

  • Officially codify the project. Make sure you mark these duties and projects as official wherever possible, emphasising the importance of these ad hoc tasks. Compile a document that gives everybody on the project a clear idea of their role and what they might do to ensure everything happens as necessary.

  • Log every task. Keep a record of these duties and projects so you may easily refer to them in the future. Make the log available to the whole team to aid communication and ensure everyone knows their progress.

  • Create a timetable. These tasks are usually time-sensitive due to their unexpected nature, and it helps everyone focus if you provide a clear rundown of the project's timescale. Team members might still have other responsibilities to contend with, so helping them dedicate the right amount of time may be useful.

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