You Need a Vacation, and This Is How to Make Sure all Hell Doesn't Break Loose While You're Out of the Office

Million Dollar Highway: Ouray, Colorado Photo credit: Yom

Million Dollar Highway: Ouray, Colorado Photo credit: Yom

If you want to alleviate your worst fears about what’s going to happen when you’re out of the office, here are some business tips for you. This article is written for managers and leaders in mind, but it applies to anyone who needs to assign tasks to other people at work when they schedule a vacation or take a staycation. You know your situation the best, so review these tips from You Office Mom and adjust them to fit your workplace and specific needs. With a comprehensive plan, your team will be adequately prepared to prior to your departure and you will use your paid time off instead of losing it. And, if you’re still not convinced about the benefits of taking a vacation read If You’re a Manager, This is the Reason Why You Need to Take Some Time Off This Summer.

Before you go

  • Develop a plan well in advance and create a spreadsheet with details, dates, resources, and links to documents and instructions.

  • Identify the individuals who will perform each task

  • Train each person. Encourage them to take notes, and confirm they understand how to complete the task. Don't just ask, "Do you know how to do this?" and ask them to repeat back the information or demonstrate the steps.

  • Assign one person to be your primary point of contact. This person will coordinate work activities during your absence, answer questions, and determine whether contacting you during your absence is warranted. Explain how to prioritize tasks as urgent and important during your absence in case things get crazy. Determine what constitutes an emergency and review various scenarios, or things that can wait until your return. Be specific and clear. However, tell your POC to err on the side of caution if ever unsure.

  • If your team is large, or highly specialized assign a couple of additional key contacts, but instruct them to work with the primary POC  during your absence.

  • Inform the team if you plan to check email and how frequently.

  • Define the process on how to handle emails your team members answer on your behalf due to your OOO auto-reply. Do you want to be cc'd on all replies, or given a rundown when you return? You don't want to answer the same emails your key contacts are answering during the day. 

  • Communicate the entire plan to the team a couple of days in advance to allow time for last minute questions and clarifications. Make sure everyone knows the "rules of contact."

  • Update your Out of Office auto-reply and identify who is responsible for what during your absence. Add your POC as well.

  • Thank the team, tell them you trust them, and you know they will do a great job. In other words, don't act like you can't trust them.

While on vacation

  • Rely on your POC to text you if there is a problem requiring your immediate attention. Avoid the tendency to check in. If you do check in, try to do so once a day, at a time when your team is off the clock. Otherwise it becomes a free for all and everyone has a question. Most of the time they can figure it out. Let them.

  • When you review email and voicemail, resist the urge to respond to things that can wait until your return. Carefully prioritize your to-dos and action items, so you address the urgent and put out fires.

When you return

  • Individually thank each team member for their help. If that’s not feasible because your team is too large, send an email to all, and then follow-up to individually thank your POC and/or key contacts.

  • Give specific feedback about what they did well and what you appreciated most. Make it more than a vague "thanks for handling things when I was out." Go the extra distance to provide meaningful feedback to recognize the team or specific individuals.

  • If anyone dropped the ball, review the scenario with that person, and talk through what should happen in the future. Do not play the blame game, but make it a learning experience instead.

  • Depending on the workload during your absence, or their overall performance, do something nice. Buy lunch, order lunch delivery, let people have a few hours off, and schedule it so your business or department can still function. It’s amazing what a thank you note, some food and a little time off can do for morale.

  • Since people know how to do it, and they did it so well in your absence, maybe it’s time you took a step back and let them run with some responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. Delegating some tasks frees you up to communicate, coach, problem solve, strategize and perform tasks only leaders can do.



P.S. If this helped you, I expect a picture from your vacation.