We are entering the time of year when many employees are taking some much-needed and well-deserved time off work. However, some may hesitate at the idea of taking time off because of the work they’ll have on their plate once they return. That said, it’s important to balance your personal life with your work life, and taking time off is key to not suffering from work burnout. Here are some tips for preparing to take time off work so that when you return, the transition will be as seamless as possible and help take some of the stress out of taking time off.
Create and Tackle Your To-Do List
Before unplugging, it’s important to first complete any items on your to-do list, especially ones you may have been pushing off. When you return to work, you’re already going to have to play catch-up and you don’t need the added stress of having tasks on your agenda that could have been completed beforehand. In an article in Harvard Business Review, they recommend, “Then block out time on your calendar to complete the must-do items. Make your original plan to complete these items at least a week before you actually leave, so you still have the ability to complete them even if unexpected items come up (which they always do) or tasks take longer than expected. This week of margin before your vacation gives you flexibility to address urgent items and still wrap up.”
Discuss How Disconnected You’ll Be
Your boss needs to be on the same page with you about your time off, so before deciding on dates, check with your boss and make sure that time works for them. You’ll also want to let them know about any projects you currently have and find out if anyone will need to handle any of your tasks while you’re gone. If a co-worker will be taking over your duties while you’re on PTO you’ll need to set up a meeting with them ahead of time. In an article on Monster they recommend, “Schedule a meeting with whoever is covering for you to review what’s in store. Want to get on their good side? Buy them lunch—or at least coffee—while you meet with them as a thank-you for having your back. During the meeting, provide an overview of the tasks they are taking on, along with any resources or documents they might need, Refsland says. Go over each item to be sure they understand what is needed of them, and answer any questions if they need clarification.”
Set Your Out of Office and Have a Back-Up
The message for your out-of-office will be dependent upon your boundary preference and how much you truly want to unplug during your time off. In the message include the dates you’ll be gone and include a contact for any urgent needs while you’re away. Here are some templates to help you craft your out-of-office message.
Clean and Organize Your Desk
Returning to work can sometimes feel overwhelming and chaotic, so set yourself up with a clean and organized desk for your return. Clear away any clutter, dust, and organize your emails and desktop. It may also be handy to create a cheat sheet with important passwords in case you forget them upon your return. Additionally, have a new to-do list written out for your first day back so you can stay as organized and clear-headed as possible.