Three Smart Steps To Stop Work From Ruining Your Vacation

Summer is here! Your vision for an ideal vacation might be anything from a campsite to Capri; Budapest to the backyard. But here’s what no one is going for: 5 a.m. meetings crammed in before the kids get up, plans delayed for “one more quick call,” a friend’s disappointment because you’re not truly present, and the constant dread of what awaits you when you get back.

Happily, there are a few proven, easy-to-implement steps that can save your vacation.

Step 1: Recruit A Colleague To Be Your “Vacation Buddy”

This could be someone who reports to you, a peer or your manager. It just needs to be someone who understands your work and is willing to make a small extra effort on your behalf. Their role is to represent you while you’re gone and catch you up quickly when you get back.

  • Before you go, meet with them and decide:
    • Are there a few meetings they can cover in your absence?
    • Are there particular deadlines or deliverables they should track?
    • Are there Slack channels they could keep an eye on and represent you when necessary?
    • What information will help you get back up to speed upon your return?
    • Does it make sense to make them your point of contact in your Out of Office message? (More on that below.)
  • Meet with them again immediately upon your return for a quick download on what you need to know
  • Thank them profusely and offer to reciprocate during their vacation

Step 2: Manage Expectations With Your Out of Office Message

The OOO message is a vastly underused tool in the modern workplace. Use it strategically and you’ll earn lots of respect as well as peace of mind. Decide how you want your vacation to go and then draft a message that manages expectations accordingly. Here are four “flavors” to consider:

  • The monitoring message: I’m on vacation from [date] to [date]. During that time, I’ll be checking messages only [frequency or time of day] and responding to the most urgent. For less time-sensitive matters, you can expect to hear from me when I get back. You can also contact [insert email address].
  • The exception message: I’m on vacation from [date] to [date]. During that time, I will not be checking email. If this is urgent, please text me at [phone number] or contact [email address]. Otherwise, I’ll respond when I get back.
  • The dark message: I’m on vacation from [date] to [date]. During that time, I will not be checking email. If this is urgent, please contact [email address]. Otherwise, I’ll follow up when I get back.
  • The amnesia message: I’m on vacation from [date] to [date] and will not be checking email. Since vacations are meant to be restorative, I plan to delete all messages upon my return, rather than try to play the catch-up game. Please resend your note after [date] or contact [email address] in my absence.

While you’re crafting your OOO message, remember to set your Slack status to remind everyone you’re away.

Step 3: Give Yourself A Buffer Day On The Return

No matter what, there will be lots to catch up on when you get back. Instead of a rocky or disorienting return, plan for a stealth work day—an extra day when you will be working, but make sure as few people as possible know in advance. Use that day to:

  • Catch up on email
  • Meet with your vacation buddy
  • Peruse relevant Slack channels
  • Prepare for the week ahead

It may not be realistic, or even your preference, to completely disconnect on your vacation. But with these three steps, you can relish the time away—and your re-entry.