If you’re anything like most office workers, going on vacation can be a headache. Time away from the office is supposed to be good for your mental health, but many workers report added stress because they know they will return to a full inbox and a backlog of unfinished business.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
With a few housekeeping actions up front, you can maximize your potential for a stress-free vacation so you can return you worked refreshed.
Delegate Your Work
We talked about the importance of delegation in our last post. But it’s an especially important topic for a stress-free vacation. You don’t want your assignments of projects to pile up while you’re gone, so ask for help before you leave. While it may be tempting to put this responsibility on your manager’s shoulders, you shouldn’t do that. Take responsibility for your own work. Ask a coworker if they’d be willing to cover your project while you’re out. The person you choose as your delegate should be familiar with the project, capable of handling it, and have the bandwidth to tackle it.
And most importantly: ask them NOT to CC you on every project unless it’s urgent. One of the biggest stressors is unwanted email. If you can train your teammates to exclude you during your vacation, it will save you a headache later on.
Use Vacation Email Wisely
Most email programs like Thunderbird or Outlook have a vacation option. Anyone who contacts you will get an automatic email informing them you are unreachable. Use this email to include important information such as when you’ll return, who to contact in your absence, and when the sender can expect a reply.
One of my favorite hacks here? I often include a note in my auto-responder saying that unless the request is urgent, senders are unlikely to receive a reply. I usually say something like this: “Due to the volume of email, I will only respond to urgent requests. To receive a reply, please contact [your cover or manager]. Thank you!”
I’ve found that not only does this set expectations, it actually encourages people to contact someone else while I’m out. Otherwise, some people would just wait for my return. That’s stressful for me and often unnecessary. Most of the time, another person can step in and help, reducing my backlog of work when I return.
Delete Emails Liberally
If you have the option of not reading every email that fills your inbox—don’t. Delete anything that looks like a newsletter, a general update, or isn’t pressing. Don’t even open these emails. Prioritize only emails that are designated as urgent, relate to a personal goal of yours, or relate to a project you’re working on. Everything else is noise.
Be A Good Cover for Others
Just as you are going to ask for help from your colleagues while you are out, you should expect to step up to the plate for them as well. Don’t wait for others to request your help, either. If you know a coworker is going on vacation and you are able to help, volunteer to do so. It will make your own request for assistance easier for them to swallow.
Deliver a Vacation Document
Probably my favorite work hack is the vacation document. It’s a single page that indicates all the important information related to y our vacation: how long you’re out, who is covering for you, and what you’re working on. It also provides contact information and time zone for your covers. The time zone information is necessary for those who work in large companies where offices span time zones. It’s helpful for people to know that while it may be 9 am where you are, it could be 6 am for your cover.
The vacation document provides a summary of your projects, and lets coworkers know (by name) what to expect. It outlines what communication they might receive and from whom, and what files they might receive. For example, If April is my cover, I might let her know that I’m expecting a project update from Robert. I will let both Robert and April know that they should communicate with each other while I’m out, and I will document this is in my vacation doc.
Feel free to use this vacation document template and make it your own.