7 Tips for a Clean Break from Work for the Holidays

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A few days off from work always sounds nice in theory. The holidays give us a break to reconnect with family, travel, and relax. But the days leading up to our time off are often packed with stress! Vacation brain sets in and it seems harder and harder to get those last minute tasks checked off your list before you rush out the door with your fingers crossed hoping the whole place doesn’t implode while you’re gone.

Follow our simple tips below and download your “Vacation Preparation Checklist” here, to help you square away the details and walk confidently out of the office for a few days of relaxation and renewal.


Play by the Policies

Do you know your HR Policy regarding requests for time off? Take advantage of the holiday season, beginning in November (before Thanksgiving) to refresh your memory by digging up your company’s policies on requests for time off.

These policies are in place to help the company staff the office with some degree of predictability.

Managers, email the policy to your employees and add it to your next employee meeting agenda so that you can all discuss it together and be sure that you have a mutual understanding of what the policy means. If your policy requires advance notice for requests, be sure to provide a final date for any holiday requests and schedule an email reminder to help employees get those requests in on time.


Prepare Early

I always feel a little like Chicken Little whenever I’m preparing to take a day off. I run around squawking “I’ll be out of the office on December 21.” I’ll be out of the office starting next Friday.” “I’m only in the office four more days this week.”

Sharing your plans for time off with your co-workers seeds the expectations that they may have an increased workload during your absence. It also helps them work with you to accomplish more while you are still in the office and possibly lighten their workload while you are away.

Managers, be sure to build time into your weekly meetings to discuss any absences on your team and how this impacts productivity and shared deadlines.


Communicate Clear Boundaries

As technology makes us more accessible via email, texts, and cell phones, more and more employers expect their employees to be available around the clock. This can be especially problematic during the holidays if expectations of accessibility are not mutual.

While it may be appropriate to text Jim on his work phone when he’s traveling on business, he might not appreciate your work questions while he’s sipping eggnog and reading the Christmas story to his kids on Christmas Eve.

If necessary, it might help to set hours when you are available for work requests to avoid any confusion and undue stress. The real key here is having a conversation about it in advance so that everyone feels heard and taken care of.


Create a Backup Plan

We’re never going to wrap up every project to the mutual satisfaction of our clients, our managers and ourselves before we leave for vacation. It just doesn’t happen. Your vacation doesn’t mean that everyone should sit and twiddle their thumbs until you come back to save them from their ignorance. And if it does, then maybe you should look for a new job or new clients.

Here’s a quick check list to help you rally your team around the tasks you need help managing while you are away:

  • Make an Active Projects and Sub-tasks List to help your co-workers keep things moving forward in your absence;
  • Identify which internal team members will be responsible for which projects and sub-tasks;
  • Provide all key contact information to your team members so that they’re not scratching their heads wondering who to email or call when the tasks are completed and need to be sent to the client;
  • Let your co-workers know that your manager is aware they are covering for you in your absence (this creates a greater sense of priority for work they may perceive as less important than their own);
  • Introduce your co-workers to your clients so that they know who will be supporting them while you are away; and
  • Email your projects and sub-task list to both your manager and your co-workers who will be covering for you so that there is a written record of the expectations. Include contact information for your clients, and let your teams know if/when/how it is appropriate to contact you while you’re away.


Out-of-Office Messages

Nothing makes a manager or a client crazier than wondering why you’re not responding to their voicemail or email. If you’re out of the office and you haven’t turned on any notifications, be prepared to come back to a sh#! storm. Keep a cliff’s notes version for enabling your convoluted phone system’s out-of-office memo feature by your phone to make it easier to check this simple task off your list.


Schedule a De-Brief Meeting

You may have emailed everyone on the planet, and you may have run around squawking “I’m leaving! I’m leaving! I’m leaving!” But it doesn’t mean everyone was giving you their undivided attention.

Scheduling a final de-brief meeting an hour before you leave the office helps your team prepare to cover for you while you’re away. Fifteen minutes is probably enough time, but it’s helpful to make this an official meeting with a calendar appointment in an official meeting space to guarantee that people give you their undivided attention.

Use the email that you sent to your team to review the tasks, client contacts, and expectations for reaching you while you are away. And remind everyone that they’ve received the email for reference. Use the remaining hour that you’re in the office to offer additional details or answers to any questions that come up during this meeting.


Schedule Re-integration Time

Nothing screws up a vacation faster than a morning full of disaster recovery meetings on your first day back in the office. Take proactive steps to block out an hour of time on your calendar for your first day back in the office. If someone else manages your calendar, let them know that you are unavailable for that first hour when you return to the office. This gives you time to catch up on emails and begin prioritizing your week.

If you are able to check emails remotely, it can help to do a little bit of catch-up the night before or even from home on the morning that you’re expected to return to work.

By following these steps, you not only reduce your stress, but you demonstrate your commitment to your work, your clients and your coworkers. Your manager is sure to notice the extra attention to detail. And who knows, maybe he’ll give you an extra day off for all of your hard work!

Be sure to download the “Vacation Preparation Checklist,” and start using it for your next vacation!