From the kid-friendly hotel you’ll stay at right down to what color tankini you’ll wear, you’ve been planning every aspect of your family vacation for months. But before you pack your suitcases and say adios to your colleagues, you have to figure out your vacation exit strategy. Be prepared to leave the office—and start your vacation right—with tips from Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC.
Give warning. As soon as you click the “book your trip” button, let your boss know when you’ll be on vacation (and unavailable) and who will cover you during that time.
Stay covered. Ask a co-worker to help take over your duties while you’re away. (Offer to return the favor when it’s her turn to go on vacation.) But remember that your colleague still has a job of her own, you may need to split your responsibilities among a few coworkers.
Prioritize projects. Sure, you’d like to finish that big report before you go on vacation, but if it’s not due until two weeks after you return, it can wait. Focus on more urgent deadlines first.
Make a list. Even before you’ve switched into vacay mode, create a back-to-work to-do list. This way, you won’t have to think about balancing budgets and looming lists while frolicking with your fam.
Be semi-available. Create a list of contact names and numbers your colleagues might need while you’re away. “Give your boss your emergency contact info but be sure to stress that it’s just that—to be used in an emergency,” says Steere.
Offer tips. Provide helpful hints to your cover person about the people or projects they’ll be handling. For example, "Sally is only in her office from 9:00 to noon each day." Or, “Amanda is not a morning person; you should talk to her in the afternoons instead.”
Do double duty. If you’re swamped with work, try to put in a couple of extra hours here and there before you leave. All that added time will help you tie up loose ends, and you’ll thank yourself when you return from vacation to a lighter workload.
Set an alert. Change your voicemail and email to let clients and colleagues know you’ll be away. Be sure to include contact info for someone they can call or email in your absence.
Clean up. There’s nothing more depressing than returning from vacation to see that a pile of papers has swallowed your desk. So leave your area neat and tidy before heading out: Important files should be clearly labeled—and accessible—on your desk to ensure that co-workers can easily find that budget proposal folder. And a clean desk will help beat the back-to-work blues.
Plan ahead. Resist the urge to overload your first day back in the office with back-to-back meetings and conference calls. Schedule a quick 15-minute chat with your cover person to catch up on what you will have missed. Then ease back in as you readjust to your work groove—and shake the sand out of your shoes.