How to Take Holiday Time Off Without Returning to Chaos
It’s the end of the year and you’re looking forward to your holiday time off. You have plans to spend time with your family and friends, and you also have plans to relax and unwind after another abnormal work year.
And, as excited as you are for this upcoming vacation, you’re also a bit nervous about taking the holiday time off. The absolute last thing you want to do is to return to complete chaos at work. You’re dreading seeing a huge pile of papers on your desk, an inbox filled with unread messages, and all the reports from your colleagues about what has gone wrong in your absence or what needs to be done now that you’re back.
Here’s the good news: With a little preparation, your holiday time off doesn’t have to be met with a chaotic return. By planning ahead, you can make sure your work is completed as it needs to be, and that someone is always covering for you while you’re gone.
Here are six ways to take holiday time off and return to a non-stressful work environment.
1. Work ahead of your holiday time off.
Chances are, you’ve planned your holiday time off in advance, making it easier for you to work ahead a bit so you’re not returning back to work after your vacation to a pile of overdue work. This is the most proactive and helpful way to approach a vacation, regardless of what time of year you’ll be away from your workplace.
If you haven’t done this, and you’re just now realizing you have limited time before vacation to work ahead, take a moment to prioritize your workload. What tasks can you complete in five – 10 minutes or less? Start your workday with 30 minutes dedicated to only completing quick tasks like these that allow you to get ahead with your work. If possible, end your workday the same way.
Then, plan out what needs to be done while you’re away. Are you comfortable with asking (or are you allowed to ask) your teammates to help you work on some of these tasks in advance of your holiday time off? They may be willing to frontload some of the work now if that means they’ll have less of your responsibilities to cover later on.
2. Create a coverage plan for your absence.
Who in your organization can assume your daily responsibilities while you are enjoying your holiday time off? Think wide and not specific here. When delegating tasks, so many workers assume they’ll share their responsibilities with one person, but it often doesn’t work out well by doing that. Your teammate often becomes overwhelmed with your duties and theirs, and tasks may get skipped, missed, or kept waiting for you to return.
By widening the pool and creating a coverage plan that delegates your duties to more people, each team member can take on just a few tasks, which ensures they get completed without any sense of frustration or overwhelm for your peers.
3. Make your expectations clear.
Before leaving, connect with your teammates or any employees you supervise so they understand what needs to be done in your absence, who is responsible for doing these things, and what expectations you may have overall or for specific duties. When expectations aren’t clear, people become confused, overwhelmed, or even irritated with you.
If there are any complex delegations, get them in writing so that your team can reference those written in your absence without needing to contact you or someone above you for instructions or clarification.
4. Share how or if you’ll be available during your holiday time off.
Before you take any holiday time off, make a personal decision of how connected you’re willing to be with your workplace. Will you be completely disconnected? Are you available for emergencies? If you’re at the management level, are you hoping for a daily or weekly check-in from one of your peers so you know everything is running smoothly in your absence?
When you’re sure about how you’d like to approach your time off, communicate this clearly with everyone who will be affected by your absence. People get frustrated when there’s any room for confusion. If your team thinks you’re potentially available for a quick email, but instead you’re sipping drinks on a beach in a remote location, there’s room for error, anxiety, or a meltdown in communications.
5. Set your out-of-office notifications before your holiday time off.
It’s almost time for you to relax into your vacation, but before you start your time away you must change your email responder and voice message so that everyone — both in and outside of the organization — knows that you aren’t available, when you’ll return, and who they can contact in your absence if they have a pressing issue.
6. Grant yourself a prep day when you return.
How wonderful would it be if you could have one slow day back in the office after your holiday time off to catch up and get organized, without having to take calls from customers, attend sales meetings, make decisions, and more? If at all possible, plan your first day back as a slow roll into your responsibilities.
Before leaving for your holiday time off, set up 10-minute max appointments on the morning of your first day back with anyone you’ve delegated work to. Here, they can inform you what got completed, what’s still in process, and if there is anything else that came up while they covered for you.
After the meetings, focus on any administrative duties you can check off your to-do list, like listening to your voicemails, making a list of calls that need to be returned, reading the emails you received while away, deleting anything unnecessary, and starring any emails that must be responded to.
Once that’s all complete, make a list of any previous work that needs to be completed and parcel that out into your schedule. Work on any of those tasks that can easily be completed on your prep day, and save anything that’s complex for the next day.
Returning from your holiday time off doesn’t have to be too difficult if you prep for the event and ease your way back into work. Enjoy your time away from the office, so you can come back refreshed and ready to take on the new year.