Posted by Tamara Stanley on Friday, November 15, 2013 - 00:00
The holiday season is fast approaching, and you’d love to take some time off to visit family. Plus, taking a break can be critical to your work performance. By unplugging from the office for a few days, you can return with a fresh perspective and renewed energy, which can boost your productivity and effectiveness on the job.
However, as you consider the stack of work on your desk and how short-staffed your department is, holiday vacations are anything but a relaxing thought. Is it possible to get away without worrying about how far behind you’ll be when you return?
Yes. The key is to plan carefully for your time off. Here are some tips:
Assign a backup. Talk to your manager about your specific needs and which members of the team might be available to lend a hand during holiday vacations. Your supervisor also might be able to identify assignments that can be put on hold during your absence.
If you oversee a team, consider temporarily reassigning some of your duties to them. Delegating to a subordinate can be a great way to build an employee’s skills and reinforce the person’s value to the team. You may want to assign tasks to several of your staff members to distribute the workload effectively.
Create an action plan. Consider all of the potential projects that may need attention while you’re away. Write down an instruction sheet for those serving as backup so they know what to expect and how to handle specific situations. Also provide the names and numbers of contacts who might need to be reached. If you think someone will need to access your computer or other systems in your absence, speak with your manager or IT support to determine the best way to share security passwords with the person. In addition, try to plan ahead for any potential challenges that may arise while taking holiday vacations and how they might be resolved or avoided entirely.
Spread the word. Give plenty of notice to key contacts that you will be out of the office and let them know who has been assigned as your backup. The more prepared people are for your absence, the less likely you will receive last-minute requests on the way out the door.
Manage your schedule. Do your best to keep the last few days before your vacation free from meetings and non-essential activities. That way, you can concentrate fully on cleaning out your inbox, wrapping up projects and tackling any final assignments.
Take a real break. Plan to leave your laptop, cell phone and other devices at home if you can. Share your vacation phone number with someone who will use it only in a true emergency— not when an employee has trouble remembering the time-saving Excel tip you shared three weeks ago. Also, resist checking in with the office. The more you stay in touch with work, the less of a break you will have. If you must check email and voice mail, limit it to once a day.
Prepare for your return. Finally, remember that a key part of vacation preparation is getting ready for the days when you’ll be returning to work. Consider which projects will need immediate attention when you arrive. Also allocate time to check messages and meet with your boss and anyone who served as a backup in your absence so you can get updates on what you missed.
By preparing for holiday vacations and for your return, you can help to make taking a break less stressful. If you continue to find that the idea of leaving is just too overwhelming, it may be a sign that the time you had in mind isn’t ideal, so consider rescheduling. Just be sure that you don’t postpone your vacation indefinitely. Your effectiveness on the job may depend on getting in some much-needed time off.