ghost work
n. After a round of layoffs or firings, the work that used to be done by the former employees and that must now be handled by the remaining staff.
In an office haunted by the ghosts of laid-off employees, those workers who dodged the hatchet aren't necessarily the lucky ones. They must excel at their old jobs to avoid still looming staff cuts and must also juggle extra, unfamiliar duties. Workplace experts are only beginning to grasp the phenomenon. "In the information age, knowledge is critical to business—and it's the employee who owns it," says Hamilton Beazley, 58, chairman of the Strategic Leadership Group, a consultancy in Arlington, Va. Beazley coined the term ghost work—now catching on around the country—to describe the additional workload taken on by surviving employees, usually without their former colleagues' trove of knowledge.
—Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, “Where Did Everyone Go?,” Time, November 18, 2002
Many executives face difficult challenges these days, managing the leaner, demoralized staffs that remain after layoffs and cost-cutting. They still have to get the same amount of work done despite the shrinking staff and resources.

Inevitably, these bosses have to ask their employees to do not only their regular jobs but also the work of axed colleagues — and without additional pay. Meanwhile, managers themselves are doing much more than their normal job. The result is that no one gets the training needed to do this "ghost work," or the jobs of departed colleagues, says Hamilton Beazley, a consultant and author of "Continuity Management: Preserving Corporate Knowledge and Productivity when Employees Leave."
—Carol Hymowitz, “Getting a Lean Staff To Do `Ghost Work' Of Departed Colleagues,” The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2002
2002 (earliest)
Too many of us at WedgeMark, for example, have had to take on the work of fired employees—ghost work we call it, because it belongs to the departed and won't leave us.
—Hamilton Beazley, Continuity Management, John Wiley & Sons, October 01, 2002
The phrase ghost work has had a few different incarnations over the years:
  • Work done by a ghostwriter (earliest citation: 1981).
  • Work billed for but not performed (1995).
  • Work done overnight (that is, on the graveyard shift; 2001).