How to Get Out of the Office Without Things Falling Apart
Granger Network Coach
Everyone “needs” a vacation. We say it all the time. And, just saying the word may evoke images of beaches, mountains, or narrow cobblestone streets. All of the things we work for, right? Don’t we “work to live”? Isn’t it obvious that taking care of ourselves will have us be more successful? The Harvard Business review asserts that, “Statistically, taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home.”
And yet, according to research released by the U.S. Travel Association, 55% of Americans do not use all of their paid vacation time!
Why are we not taking vacations? What is it that has people calling us the “no-vacation nation”? Things have shifted dramatically even over the past ten years; we take less vacation time now than ever before.
One of the major reasons for this personal neglect, which we hear from our clients, is that we genuinely don’t see what to do with our work when we are gone or how to catch up when we get back. We find it challenging enough to get a lunch break in regularly. And, we catastrophize the impact of being out of the office for even a few days. Without us there, the whole operation will surely crumble!
So, how can we lessen that impact, or the perceived impact, and set ourselves up to get the renewal we need to ensure our success at work and our satisfaction in life?
Setting Yourself Up for Success
With a bit of advanced planning, you may be surprised how simple it can be to get out of the office for a week or two.
Here are some best practices. You do not need to do them all! Do what fits your situation.
Six Months to a Year in Advance
1. Allocate your vacation time.
Block time in your calendar at the beginning of the year. Don’t wait to find a “convenient” time, there will likely never be a convenient time. Even if you don’t know where you want to go, just block out the time. Make that time sacred. Then, you can agree to deadlines and workloads that take your vacation time into account.
2. Make it public.
Put your vacation time in the company calendar. If you don’t have one, consider creating one for your company or team.
3. Schedule projects accordingly.
In the months leading up to vacation, be mindful of agreeing to deadlines the week after your vacation. Doing this will likely lead to you working on vacation.
Two Weeks to One Month Before Vacation
1. Plan your coverage.
Make a list of the projects you are working on and begin to add tasks that need to happen while you are out. For these tasks, decide who on your team is the best fit to take over for you.
2. Coordinate with your colleague.
Set up meetings with the co-workers who are covering for you.
3. Communicate with your boss.
Let your boss know who will be handling things for you while you are on vacation.
4. Communicate with key clients.
Contact key clients if applicable. Let them know how long you will be out, any relevant information on projects you have going with them, and who will be covering for you.
5. Set aside catch-up time for when you get back.
– Schedule specific, high-priority items in your calendar so you know in advance where your attention will need to be when you return.
– Set aside time for responding to email.
– Schedule meetings with your co-workers to debrief any tasks they handled when you were gone.
– Don’t over-estimate what you can accomplish in the first week. Try under-scheduling to give yourself ample time to ramp up.
The Day Before Your Vacation
1. Create an out-of-office notification.
2. Remind key people you will be out of the office.
3. Clear off your desk.
An inviting space will support you to get ‘right to work’ when you get back.
During Your Vacation
1. Resist the urge to check in on work.
Turn off your email notifications. Leave your laptop at home and keep your phone in your suitcase. This may feel really strange at first. You might even feel anxious, but if you can ignore those urges for a couple of days, it will get easier and you will be able to be more present and relaxed.
2. If you cannot disconnect completely, be intentional.
If you absolutely must check email when you are on vacation, set up a specific time to do so rather than checking sporadically.
When You Return
1. Don’t go into overdrive.
The idea of vacation is to come back revitalized and renewed. Don’t undo all benefits by going into over-drive to get caught up. If you put catch-up time in your calendar, you should be well set up to re-enter work at a reasonable pace.
2. Communicate with your team.
It’s a good idea to let people know you are back and by when you will be caught up on things like email. Ask them to call or text if they have something urgent that needs your attention. Debrief with anyone who was handling part of your workload.
By following these simple steps, you can set yourself up to have meaningful vacations, and ultimately, get the rejuvenation needed to be an even higher performer.