It takes a lot of work for employees to prepare for a summer holiday – they must tie up loose ends, delegate work that must be done in their absence, clear their desks – the list goes on. Then, upon returning, there’s the avalanche of e-mails, voicemail and endless other tasks to deal with.
Is it even worth it to take a break?
Yes. Vacations are extremely important to physical and mental well-being. While away, people often gain a better perspective about a project or their job overall. They may even re-define their career goals. The time away is valuable.
So don’t cancel the holiday. Try organizing more effectively before and after your break.
Before You Go
1. Start Getting Ready Earlier Than You Need To
Once you know when you will be away, start thinking about beginning your holiday preparations. This doesn’t mean getting a passport or thinking about what to pack. It means giving yourself a chance to wind things down over a few weeks rather than in those few busy days before your vacation. Many people find themselves panicking before a holiday trying to finish last minute items. Rather than experience this kind of crunch, schedule time to finish “must do’s” early, especially if the deadline is during your holiday.
2. Prioritize and Plan
Not everything has to be finished before you leave. Some loose ends can wait. But how do you decide? Some use a holiday departure as a deadline to try to get all unfinished business tied up. One manager drove staff hard right before he went on holiday. He hoped to get everything done before he left, requiring staff to write proposals in case a client wished to act on a recommendation during the manager’s absence. As it turned out, clients did not act on any suggestions during the manager’s two-week holiday. The manager increased staff work load and created a flurry of unnecessary activity before he left.
Assess what needs to be done before you go. What is due during your holiday, what will others need from you to do their jobs in your absence and what should get finished? Starting new projects can wait until you return and loose ends that have managed to stay loose ends up until now can wait as well.
Others will also be tempted to push things through before they go by scheduling last minute meetings. Ask to see the agenda and decide if the meeting can wait until you return. Sometimes the idea of not having a valuable team member available for a week or two can cause others to want to ensure they’ve covered every base. Not all these bases are a high priority.
When composing your auto-reply for your e-mail, include your return date. Then ask people to re-send their message upon your return to ensure that you get their message. This can help people decide what they really need from you and ensure that you get important e-mail when you come back.
Remember to book “re-entry” time into your schedule. Taking time to work through e-mail, customer requests and paperwork will ease you back into work.
Consider asking for help with tasks that can be shared or delegated. If you don’t have to do it all yourself, ask for assistance or a favour. Ask staff to pinch hit for you while you are away but be sure to show them how to complete the task properly. And when you return bring a little present. It’s good to be appreciative of someone else taking on your tasks.
After You Return
1. Use Your Re-entry Time
Since you booked time to catch up, be sure to use it for that purpose. Resist booking appointments during your re-entry time. Completing paperwork that has accumulated when you were away will reduce your stress and make you feel like your holiday was worth it. Book e-mail answering time and answer each message right away rather than having to return to the messages later.
Coming back to work and pulling an extra long shift or working into the evening can undo the benefits of a well-deserved vacation. Once again, prioritizing work upon your return is as important as creating priorities before you leave. What needs attention right away and what can wait? Remember that team members or staff will be eager to talk to you when you get back. Ask them what they need and book time according to what needs to be attended to according to priority.
3.Schedule Some Fun
Be sure to give yourself a post-holiday treat. Plan an enjoyable activity for a few days following your return. You’ll hang on to the holiday attitude longer and have something to look forward to after you’ve completed your re-entry. Just going back to work with nothing but memories and some photos without something to look forward to can make your re-entry feel arduous. Think about planning an overnight on a weekend or a day long outing that doesn’t include getting something done around the house. Try to simulate that “out-of-the-routine” holiday feel.
Planning makes a holiday worthwhile and it makes leaving for it less of a chore. And, the return to work is less of a shock when it’s well-planned.
Dr. Jennifer Newman is a registered psychologist and director of Newman Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development company. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality. Dr. Newman can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.