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Taking Time off and How to Plan for It

Taking time off is important. A vacation or staycation can offer a needed break and opportunity to relax and then return to the office with renewed energy. But too often the weeks leading up to your vacation can feel extra stressful and returning can leave you feeling more anxious than before you left. As the holidays approach, we’d like to explore some best practices to prepare for taking time off to reduce stress for you and your team.

Notify Your Manager and Colleagues in Advance

Your time out-of-office should come as a surprise to no one. As far in advance as you are able, request your time off. Make sure to update any organization calendars with your vacation dates and notify your manager, direct reports, and colleagues. As your time-off approaches, reschedule any recurring meetings and take a look at any deliverables due while you’re planning to be away. Strategize with your manager about what projects can be pushed back and identify what needs to get done in advance. Planning like this can help avoid miscommunication and leave the office with clear expectations for where projects will continue, pause, or pick back up again upon your return. As you set these timelines with your manager and teams, be realistic with your time estimates and availability. Take the time to also align with your manager about what work should take priority.

Set Clear Expectations

It can be easy to take a vacation without truly signing off from your work. Checking your inbox or staying on your office slack channel can compromise the restorative benefits of taking a vacation and make you feel like you haven’t taken one at all. Before you take time off make sure to be clear about your limits with your manager and colleagues. If you’re making a point of not checking your email, consider suggesting your manager text you if something urgent comes up and requires your help or input. It may also be helpful to ask colleagues about office culture norms and what practices they use to set boundaries when taking time off.

The Art of the Out-of-Office Email

Let’s be honest, a lot of us write these emails as we’re halfway out the door. As you prepare for the winter holidays, do your best to craft your email in advance and think about what your constituents may need from you. Often we direct people to contact our supervisors while we’re out. Additionally, it may be helpful to provide a couple of contacts for specific projects folks may follow up about. Depending on your role and organization, it may also be useful to think about additional resources to direct them to while they wait to hear back from you like an FAQ page or a general mailbox that is monitored by a team of staff. Lastly, if your office closes over the holiday, make sure to identify the dates when they should not expect to reach or hear back from anyone.

Make a Checklist

Making a list (and checking it twice) is as useful to Santa as it can be for you before you head out for the holidays. Whether it’s a post-it or a Trello Board, making a checklist can help you stay on top of everything you need to complete before you leave, and pick up where you left off when you return.

Prepare and Trust Your Team While You’re Out

Taking vacation is a great time to let your team take the lead. Of course, that requires a lot of preparation and thoughtfulness about who will be best suited to carry on some of your responsibilities before you depart. Set your team up for success by providing them with a lot of notice and giving them the opportunity to try out some of the responsibilities before you leave. This provides your team an opportunity to ask questions and allows you to review their work to make sure it meets expectations.

Making time to take some of these steps can help your time off feel restorative and allow you to come back to work more effectively. Have you found any particular practices helpful in preparing for time off? Email us at idealistorgs@idealist.org to let us know and share your suggestions!

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