how to ensure a stress free time off.
We have been continually told over the course of 2020 that we need to maintain a great work / life balance. That’s all very well, but as we prepare for a holiday from the office (whether home or otherwise) how do we make sure that, firstly we’re in good shape for taking time off and secondly, how do we make sure we’re not returning to a complete mess, or worse, the necessity to work during our time off?
All the P’s
So like a recipe for a meal, you wouldn’t start cooking without checking that you have all the ingredients. Similarly, you shouldn’t plan to take time off work without the correct “recipe” to ensure that the transition from work to holiday is smooth both for you and your colleagues.
Planning and Preparation Prevent a Pretty Poor Performance is basically what this adds up to (or whatever appropriate saying you prefer – fail to plan and plan to fail is another). Whatever term you choose to use it comes down to the same thing. Although a sneaky half day off now and again should go under the radar unnoticed, planning to take a couple of weeks off required a bit more preparation.
So What’s the Recipe?
Following the suggestions below should result in you having a relatively stress free transition from work to holiday, and conversely back from holiday to work.
- From about a month before you go on vacation: Use your standard email signature to draw people’s attention to the fact you will be out of the office. So from about a month in advance of you going off on vacation change your standard signature to include a brief “heads up” that you’ll be out of the office. It doesn’t have to be long-winded – this works well ” Advance Notice – I will be out of the office from the 7th to the 24th July”. Ensure it stands out at the bottom of your email so that people notice it – highlighting it in BOLD or in a loud colour usually does the trick!
- About two weeks before you go away: Plan to organise to sit down with a colleague who is sufficiently experienced and who agrees to be available to cover for you and have a handover. This doesn’t need to be anything too serious however if they haven’t covered for you before it may need to be more in depth. Make sure they are aware of any deadlines that will fall due when you are away. As someone who has worked in finance I know that trying to take time off over a month end is nigh on impossible, but outwith those dates there are still deadlines and tasks that require to be performed / reports submitted etc. so make sure these are all covered.
- Make sure they have a full contact list for personnel who they might have to interact with, especially if anything contentious comes up. In addition, ensure they have access to any particular folders they will need. To facilitate this rather than having them come and sit with you, use their computer and check they have access to anything that will be required. Check if they require to be included in any delegated authority limits when you are away as well and if so, ensure these get actioned prior to your departure. There is no point in finding out the day after you leave that they didn’t have access to a folder or couldn’t access a file because they don’t have the right password.
- About a week before you leave make sure that any stakeholders and colleagues that may not have received (or noticed) your email announcement of your impending holiday are made aware. Ideal opportunity would be at a weekly meeting or you could send out an email to everyone you would normally interact with during the time you will be off to let them know, and to let them know that there is someone who they can contact in your absence. This should give them reassurance that you are not leaving them in the lurch.
- The day before you go set up your out of office email auto response so that anyone who emails you is made aware you are off and won’t be checking emails. The wording I would use is as follows: “I am currently on vacation returning on the 24th July and will not be checking emails, however I will respond to your email on my return. If your request is urgent then please get in touch with Dave on email email@example.com or on phone number 0555 555 5555 who will be able to deal with you request.”
- If you have a voicemail message make sure this is changed as well to make people who call you aware that you will not be able to respond to them during the period you are off.
- Spend the last few hours before you leave the office finishing off any outstanding work as well as clearing out your in-box so that when you return you don’t have old emails to catch up on as well. Create a to do list of anything that remains outstanding so that it can either be covered by your “cover person” or more realistically done by you on you return.
- It may be worth at this point specifying a return hand over meeting with your cover person so that they know that on your return they can hand everything back to you and its not left up in the air. If you must, you then you could always give them an emergency phone number at this point in case of a problem, but explain that if its not urgent it can be left until you return.
- Next thing to do is to switch off your computer and leave the office. I would try as hard as you can to avoid checking your emails when you are off. As much as you want to, as well as interrupting your vacation, it undermines the person you have asked to cover for you, and they may not be keen to repeat the process in the future.
- A nice gesture would be to bring back some sweets or a small gift from your holiday to present to the colleagues who were covering for you as a thank-you. It goes a long way!
So that is a brief outline of what to do to ensure that you have a stress free vacation from work without missing anything while you are away. It’s always a problem leaving work, especially these days when people don’t tend to have too many people available to cover for you.
Do you have any ideas or advice on how you handle time away from work? If you have anything to share or any comments on my tips and hints please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let me know. As ever I would love to hear from you.