Everyone loves a vacation. But as we all know, sometimes the work-related stress that results from time off almost makes it not worth it—desperate messages from colleagues and clients, the mountain of emails to go through upon your return, and of course playing catchup; not to mention the stress put on your coworkers.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Planning ahead can help you avoid many of these problems. Here are some tips for making things run smoothly.
Prepare your department’s schedule as far into the future as possible and go over it with your coworkers before you leave. TalentMEDIA Editorial Services juggles many projects at once—at any given time we might have 15 concurrent jobs for just as many clients, with several contractors and employees working on them, and future jobs scheduled months in advance. We keep a detailed Excel spreadsheet of our editorial calendar noting all current and future jobs and who’s working on them. That way, whenever new work comes in, we can quickly determine how it will fit into the schedule. Before one of us goes on vacation, we look at the schedule together to make sure we’re all on the same page. This kind of preparation ensures that if work comes in while you’re away, your coworkers won’t need to consult with you for any scheduling questions.
Share client and job info and files with your coworkers. Make sure they are familiar with—or have access to any materials they need to become familiar with—your clients and projects. For TalentMEDIA, this means ensuring those left behind can access client pricing and billing information; client style guides/preferences; info about recent, ongoing, and upcoming jobs; client contacts, etc. One method is forwarding recent client correspondence to your colleagues before you leave. At TalentMEDIA, we have so many relevant files that, before one of us leaves for vacation, we create a shared backup folder of all our desktop files on a site like Dropbox or SharePoint. If you’ll be away for a particularly long period, it might also help to leave details so your coworkers can sign into your computer in an emergency.
Alert your clients that you’ll be away, and let them know who to get in touch with in your absence. That way they’ll be comfortable that everything will remain under control while you’re gone instead of panicking when they get your out-of-office message. One way to do this is correspondence introducing your backup to your clients.
Your coworkers inevitably have to put in some extra work while you’re away. So make sure they know about your vacation as far in advance as possible so they can plan accordingly. If you use contractors, ask if they are willing to work more hours than usual or be on call.
Be upfront with your colleagues about if and how you can be reached. Let your colleagues know if they can feel free to reach out any time, or if it should be only in case of an emergency. Maybe you’ll be checking email occasionally, or perhaps you don’t mind a quick call or text from a coworker with a question. Maybe you are going somewhere without any cellphone or email access at all. Or maybe you simply have no intention of dealing with work while you’re away—just be honest!
Before leaving for vacation, build time into your schedule to settle back in when you return. Be realistic. You know how long it will take to go through that mountain of emails. Schedule time to sit down with your coworkers so they can get you up to speed.
The bottom line: Vacations will always cause some logistical issues. Your coworkers will always have to pick up the slack while you’re gone. There might be a fire or two to put out. You can’t avoid playing catchup. But proper planning will make your time away—and your return—run more smoothly. Your coworkers and your clients will appreciate it—and you can enjoy that vacation with a little less worry in the back of you mind!