This article was based on episode 212 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get the full episode guide when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Purchase any full episode guide at themodernmanager.com/shop.
With so much on our plates, it’s easy to forgo vacation time in favor of plowing ahead. But we need to remember that rest and recovery are essential to being our best selves and doing our best work. Research is chock full of evidence proving that vacations provide powerful health benefits, reducing stress and increasing productivity. But if we go away worrying about everything piling up in our inbox, or if we feel unsure of how our team will get on without us, our body might be on vacation but our mind will still be in the office.
That’s why I wanted to provide a thorough plan for managers on how to prepare themselves and their teams for taking vacation, so that time off really feels like time well spent rejuvenating.
PRINCIPLE #1: COORDINATE WITH YOUR TEAM
Taking vacation time means that other people in the office will have to shoulder extra work. Coordinating when people are taking time off is critical so that multiple people don't disappear at the same time and throw the office into disarray. I suggest creating a shared vacation calendar to coordinate when people are taking their time off. This is an easy way for your team to see who will be away and when.
PRINCIPLE #2: PLAN AHEAD
Make sure to start planning at least two weeks ahead of time so that you’ll have adequate time to thoughtfully prepare and communicate your out of office plan. Keep track of all of the tasks you expect others to do for you for each day/week you are out. If you’re having trouble remembering, consult prior to-do lists to refresh your memory. Consider which meetings you want to cancel versus who might be good at replacing you.
Once you’ve got your list, consider what you’ll do ahead of time, what you’ll delay until you return, what you’ll hand off to a colleague, and what you’ll take care of while you’re out.
PRINCIPLE #3: DETERMINE OUT OF OFFICE AVAILABILITY
The more clear you are up front with your colleagues about your availability when you are out, the more you can relax while vacationing. There is no one right way to be away, so choose what feels most comfortable for you.
Would you prefer totally unplugging or occasionally checking email? Do you want people to be able to contact you if needed, and if so, by calling/texting/Slack, etc? Do you want to create scheduled check-in times so that questions and updates are funneled into one timeblock?
PRINCIPLE #4:THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT ASSIGNING WORK
You don’t want to overload one person with all of the work you’d normally do. Remember also that what’s easy for you might take a lot longer for someone not used to such tasks.
As you think through who on your team has the time and skills to help out, also consider who might benefit from trying something new. Assigning new responsibilities might be a great growth opportunity for a colleague. Think about who might benefit from additional tasks or exposure to different colleagues. You might just find some hidden talents in your staff!
Make sure that people are on board when assigning new responsibilities. You want people to feel confident in their new temporary roles and also ensure that they have a say in the matter.
PRINCIPLE #5: PLAN FOR RE-ENTRY
Returning to work after a relaxing vacation can feel incredibly overwhelming. Your inbox is overflowing and colleagues are clamoring to talk with you about what you missed. Remember that you don’t have to attend to everything on Day 1!
Before you depart, schedule meetings for the week you return to tie up loose ends and review what happened when you left. Another approach is to ask people to prepare a brief document or audio/video recapping the key activities, decisions, and takeaways when you are gone. Then, after you’ve consumed their recap, you can meet to get any additional details or questions answered.
THE POWER OF DOCUMENTING PROCESSES
One of the greatest tools I’ve found in preparing for vacations is to adequately document processes for tasks beforehand so others can review them as needed. The trick is to document while you’re doing the task, rather than from memory. When we do it from memory, we tend to forget small things. Instead, record your screen while narrating what you’re doing as you’re doing it. For non-digital tasks, you can set up your phone to record you or make detailed notes. Be sure to include accurate details like login information, the exact name of the tab or file, etc.
Effective planning is important not just for you, but for anyone who will be taking time off. Encourage your colleagues to plan ahead for who will cover for them, what they will do when out, and if/how they want others to contact them. Help them refine their plan and support it when they bring others on board.
Be a role model for your team. They’ll be more likely to take vacation days if they see that you are. I always try to have a vacation coming up that I can look forward to. Research has shown that the anticipation and the memories of a vacation are just as powerful as the vacation itself. So give yourself something to be excited about. And, share photos and stories with your team when you return. This can reinforce positive relationships and bring your team closer together. So, where will you be going next?!
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This article was based on episode 212 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.