Ready, Set, Go On Vacation

What to do before you go on vacation

ready set goRecently, I’ve read several articles about how important vacations are for our well being. No matter where we fall on the totem pole we need them. Simultaneously, I’m reading CNN’s Why is America the “No-Vacation” Nation? Which begins “Let’s be blunt: If you like to take lots of vacation, the United States is not the place to work.”

Yes, people are overworked, overwhelmed, downright beat, but they’re afraid to leave their offices for more than a day. It seems that a lack of time off combined with the fear of seeming uncommitted by being out of the office and concern about the build-up of work while we’re away makes taking a vacation just a dream for many.

When people do take time off for vacation it often mean s they’re simply working from a vacation location. What’s a person to do?

One of the keys to having a worry-free vacation is planning. “Begin telling colleagues about your time away four to six weeks in advance,” says Karissa Thacker, PhD, workplace psychologist. “This allows people to plan and know that you will not be available.”

Planning your time out of the office is just like planning your actual vacation. It’s all in the details:

  • Choose your vacation week(s) based on your company or department’s workflow, realize you’re not the only one who wants time off during the holidays like the 4th of July
  • Leave an overview of the status of any projects you’re currently working on, make sure that any deadlines are covered
  • Set your email and phone messages to indicate how long you’ll be gone and who to contact in your absence, don’t leave clients and colleagues wondering
  • Identify someone you trust who will be available to answer questions and cover your major project while you’re away
  • Empower others to act in your absence when the need arises, a solid team should be able to operate without you for a week
  • Start your time off a day before you leave on vacation if possible, this gives you a chance to start to unwind

While you’re away make sure people are there if any problems arise. “Ensure that there are key points of contact that are responsible for particular projects. Depending on the project’s level of importance, you can certainly empower your colleagues to make reasonable decisions and actions while you’re away, based on a set of criteria,” says Jason Levin, a district manager for Vault.com.

Today most people are used to staying connected to the office almost 24/7. What about when you’re on vacation? Should you check in with the office? If so how often?

Opinions on checking in with the office are mixed. Some experts say to go “cold turkey” and stay away from phone calls and emails from the office completely. Others suggest checking your email and/or making calls to the office at prescheduled times of the day. You may find it helpful to scan your email every day and delete what you don’t need. This will also help once you return to the office.

“It’s much LESS stressful for many people to check their email while away,” offers Thacker. “The anxiety of not knowing what is going on is hard.”

It also depends on what type of business you’re in. If you’re working in a professional services industry you may need to stay more connected than someone who doesn’t have clients. It’s important to create a strategy that works for you.

“Even when you are passionate about what you do, you need time to refresh. Honor that need to regenerate and be realistic and honest about schlepping your laptop/phone/files on vacation with you,” says Jessica Chapman, founder Room To Breathe.

Back to Work

What’s the best way to get back into the swing of things? The general consensus is to come home a day early or tack an extra day on to your vacation. “This way you get to unpack, thank the neighbors and slowly work your way back into your daily life,” suggests Lori Kay, PhD, therapist www.drlorikay.com.

Once you’re back at the office. Should you dive right into that pile of emails clogging your inbox? Absolutely not.

“Before diving through all your emails, reach out to your colleagues and get a sense of what has taken place. Understand what the priorities are and what you need to focus your time on,” says Levin.

The important thing is to ease back into your work routine.

  • Try to go in early on your first day back in the office
  • Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings the first couple of days back
  • Scan your emails and delete the junk
  • Be realistic about your expectations, you can’t do everything the day you return

So what’s the most essential thing to remember when you’re on vacation? Relax, relax, relax. Spend time with your family and/or friends. Make sure not to stay too connected to the office while you’re away.

Think of it this way. Spending a substantial part of your day working while you’re on vacation is the same as spending your workday focusing on your health and family. Enjoy your time away from the office you’ll be more productive for it.

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.

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