People often joke about it being more work to take time off, but there’s truth to it. Avoid the stress with these 5 tips that will make going back to work after vacation a breeze.
Illustration: Emma Murray
I recently took a two-week vacation, traveling through several European countries, and while I knew jet lag might be an issue, I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to get back into a rhythm when I returned to the office.
When I’d finally stopped reliving beautiful drives through the English countryside and was ready to get my head back in the game, social media had me wistfully daydreaming about my next vacation. It seemed that at any given time, one of my friends was vacationing somewhere beautiful or exotic, and sharing photos of their holiday jaunts, making it extremely difficult to get back into my work routine.
If you’re having trouble being productive, or need to motivate your team, these five tips will help you prepare for your time away and keep you on task when going back to work after vacation.
Prepare Before You Go
People often joke about it being more work to take time off, but there’s truth to it if you want to come back from holiday feeling refreshed and not feel overwhelmed upon your return. In fact, the U.S. Travel Association reports that 46 percent of all managers fear facing a mountain of work upon their return from time off.
With employees taking more vacation time than they have since 2014, it’s imperative that they make preparations prior to their break, to alleviate facing a productivity-blocking mountain of work upon their return.
One of the best preparations is tying-up any loose ends with projects and delegating items to other teammates for them to complete or oversee in your absence. No one likes going back to work after vacation with an inbox full of action items waiting for them, so get ahead of the curve. Having a plan in place before you leave means you won’t have a pile of work waiting for you, that could have been completed by someone else on the team.
Having a plan in place before you leave means you won’t have a pile of work waiting for you, that could have been completed by someone else on the team.
There is nothing worse than getting work calls and pings when you’re vacationing. Whether you’re traveling or taking time away at home, the purpose of vacation time is to get away from your daily work tasks and refresh. Team leaders can also benefit from advance planning by meeting with employees before they take time away. By putting an action plan in place with your team — and setting expectations — you can avoid stepping away from the pool to take calls and a mounting pile of work in your absence.
Give Yourself Time
If you’re doing any type of traveling during your time off, create a buffer between leaving and going back to work after vacation. Try to take a day before your departure for last-minute errands and packing. Upon your return, give yourself a day or two at home to get settled and recover from possible jet lag.
While it’s natural to want to make use of every moment of the time you have away, planning to fly in from holiday on a Sunday and return to work Monday is not the wisest idea. Give yourself at least one day to take care of laundry and errands to set yourself up for your return to work.
Maximize The Benefits Of Your “Out of Office” Message
The advent of electronic mail blessed many an office with communications efficiency, so embrace your ability to have an automated “Out of Office” message and let people know that you’re away. To utilize the away message to its full potential, make sure to include a contact person who can handle urgent items in your absence. In addition to providing a contact, set expectations for responses by stating that you won’t be responding to emails until your return (or even the day after).
Managers can use their “Out of Office” messaging to communicate the chain of command in their absence, as well as to establish expectations while they’re away. If you’re not checking your emails during your break — and you shouldn’t — state that in your away message, and give a clear time when people can expect a response from you.
Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day
You’ve been out of the office for a while, so don’t expect to get caught up and back into the rhythm your first day back. Pace yourself with your to-do list so that you don’t undo all of the R and R you experienced while on vacation. Taking time to get into the swing of things will allow you to see your break as an opportunity. By stepping away from your desk you’re able to come back with more focus and a fresh pair of eyes. You may even find that your creativity has spiked after some downtime, and your problem-solving skills are on-point — this is an opportunity to do great things!
Schedule a meeting upon their return to chat about their holiday, get them up to speed on project progress in their absence, and discuss expectations of their progress upon their return; if necessary, work with your employee to create a timeline to better manage workflow upon their return.
Managers should expect their team members to take a day or two to find their rhythm when returning to work after vacation. Yes, they’re refreshed, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to hit the ground running their first day back. Schedule a meeting upon their return to chat about their holiday, get them up to speed on project progress in their absence, and discuss expectations of their progress upon their return; if necessary, work with your employee to create a timeline to better manage workflow upon their return.
Team Time When Going Back to Work After Vacation
Team leaders should plan a meeting upon their return to get caught up to speed. At the same time, team members should plan to meet with their colleagues to go over any action items taken care of in their absence. Those pre-break preparations allowed the workflow to continue in your absence, but now you need to know what happened while you were gone.
Setting a team meeting for your return before you leave relieves the stress of going back to work after vacation because it cuts down on the number of employees vying for your time directly upon returning, in addition to providing a set time for team members to catch up, ask questions, and establish short term goals. Nothing is more frustrating than a line going out your door the morning you return to work. Curtail the line — and the stress — by meeting first thing, you’ll thank yourself later.
Don’t let yourself be daunted by the thought of stepping away from work — you’ve earned that much-needed time off! By taking some time to prepare for your break, you’ll ease right into going back to work after vacation.