7 steps to catch up at work after your vacation

On the Job

7 steps to catch up at work after your vacation

Some people say they don’t take vacations because they don’t want the stress of dealing with returning. You know, “If I’d known I’d have to work every night this week to catch up from vacation, I never would have gone.”

Well, it’s time to change your thinking because vacations are good for your career. Want a promotion? The Harvard Business Review reported on research from Project: Time Off that found people who take all their vacation time have a 6.5% higher chance of getting a promotion or raise than people who leave 11 or more days of paid time off on the table.

That might not sound like a big probability of a promotion, but it also means the opposite is true: Not taking a vacation doesn’t guarantee a promotion, either. So, take the time off. Just plan for it using 7 seven steps.

1. Decide how reachable you want and need to be.
Many people plan vacations months, and sometimes years in advance. We have no idea what will be going on around the office when we’re getting ready to leave. Take a moment to think about how connected (or unconnected) it makes sense for you to be. If you’re traveling with family or friends, get their buy-in for your office connectivity plans.

2. Share your vacation schedule with the people in your office who need to know.
Your vacation is more important to you than anyone else. You don’t need to have a countdown clock on your door, but do let your colleagues know when you’re officially unavailable. And if it makes sense, it’s okay to check in during vacation if that makes you feel better, according to Scott Edinger in the Harvard Business Review article “Read This Before You Head Out on Vacation.

3. Find a backup team.
Sometimes your work can’t wait until you get back from vacation. Find trusted co-workers who can take over your responsibilities while you’re out of the office. Depending on your role and the amount of time you plan to be out, the company might hire a freelancer to fill in. Be sure to let people know how reachable you’ll be if they have questions (see #1) and when you might call in to answer questions (see #2).

4. Make sure key stakeholders know project statuses.
It’s one thing to let your colleagues know what they need to do while you’re on vacation, but the boss is also going to need an update. That includes who’s filling in while you’re out. Your manager will want to know everything is taken care of and who to speak with in your absence.

5. Craft an out of office message (with instructions).
Email is an essential business tool today. When someone is out of the office (also abbreviated to OOO), senders expect to get some sort of notification with instructions on how to proceed if their request can’t wait for your return. Check out this article from The Muse on “Standard Out of Office Messages are Boring. Try This Instead.” And consider saving your OOO so you don’t have to recreate it every time.

6. Pack a notebook.
The whole purpose of vacation is to relax and recharge. But that doesn’t mean work won’t cross your mind every once in a while, especially if you’re a freelancer or consultant. Consider taking a notebook on vacation so when you think of work-related ideas, you can immediately jot them down and get on with your vacation.

7. Plan a catch-up day.
When you block off your vacation on your calendar, also block off a catch-up day when you return. Use this time to meet with your boss (see #4) and your colleagues (see #3) and get reacquainted with what’s been going on while you’ve been out. Be sure to thank them for helping you. Start responding to priority emails and let people know you’re back.

One more thing: Remember to pay it forward and help the boss or a colleague have a relaxing vacation when it’s their time. If we want others to help us, we need to repay the favor. This creates better teams and helps the work get done.

Vacations are an important part of our well-being. We perform better when we have opportunities to rest and relax. And we can get the rest and relaxation we need when we plan for a smooth transition back from vacation.

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