You’ve been planning for months and at long last, the time has come for your summer holidays. Now you finally have a chance to get away from work and relax, and actually take a proper break for a little bit. But if you really want to make the most of your time off, and not waste two weeks sitting at a bar trying to send a really important file to the office, you need to plan for your absence.
It can be easy to get swept away by the excitement of taking a holiday, but failing to plan for the people back home could leave you trying to solve a major problem remotely. Then not only will you not get the break you expected, you’ll spend the rest of the trip worrying about the fallout when you return. Rather than risk ruining your trip, take a little time to plan ahead, and make sure that the office is still standing when you get back.
Don’t just work, do your job
In every team, there are skills that only certain people have, and skills that everyone has. So when somebody goes away, this can throw the team dynamic off, and failing to plan for this could lead to a messy situation.
Since you are the one going away, it is your responsibility to ensure that things will be alright while you’re gone. If not, you’ll be the one on the receiving end of the panicked phone calls, and left to clean up the mess when you get back.
Don’t waste time on things somebody else can pick up. Your top priority should be making sure that you’ve done everything that nobody else can, because if it isn’t done, only you can get the blame. Apart from that, your team members will appreciate that you took the time to make sure they aren’t left with an emergency they can’t handle.
Plan your return properly
Usually you’ll have more than a few weeks’ notice that you are going away. Planning for your departure should be an easy process, if you start early enough. But planning for your return is equally important.
Failure to plan ahead for the week you get back will most likely leave you stressed and overworked. Papers will have piled up, meetings will have been postponed, and things will have gone wrong that you’ll have to fix. The best thing you can do is leave your first few days back in the office wide open to catch up on everything, and deal with whatever backlog of disaster has built up. Not giving yourself time to deal with this will completely negate the relaxation you just enjoyed.
Prepare your contacts
You have probably been looking forward to this trip for a long time, and have no doubt been telling everyone about your plans. But no matter how excited you are, you have to remember that other people don’t really care until they realise they can’t contact you.
The very first thing you need to ensure is that your email and voicemail are set up to let people know that you are away. Be sure to include an alternative member of your team that people can contact for urgent matters. These are really easy things to do, but they will drastically cut down on the number of irrelevant emails and voicemails waiting for you when you get back.
The next thing you should do is contact your most important clients. There’s no need to contact everyone you know, just the people you’re most scared of when they’re upset. Even if you have an automated email & voicemail set up, there are certain people who will appreciate knowing that you won’t be in touch. Let them know a few weeks before so you can get anything they need ready for them before you go. You’ll look good, and your team won’t be left dealing with a situation they can’t handle.
Next you should make a list of emergency contacts: who should they call if the website goes down, or the pamphlets don’t get delivered. Providing your team with the right contacts means they won’t have to go through you, and everything will run a lot smoother. It is also a good idea to cc a member of your team on any important emails, so that if there is a problem while you’re gone, everyone is in the loop.
Finally, you have to draw a line with your team. You need to establish what they can contact you about, how often, and so on. One approach you can take to deal with this is to tell people that you won’t be checking emails at all. If they need you, they can call you. This is the approach taken by our own Director of Marketing, Peter Cosgrove, who says “It’s surprising how few things become urgent when they have to pick up the phone”. If people need to contact you, they can, and usually a call gets things resolved much faster than a chain of emails. But the real reason that this approach works so well is that it stops people forwarding you an email and transferring responsibility.
This may seem like more planning than you expected to take a holiday, but the more you do now, the less of a mess you will have to clean up later on. The whole point of taking a holiday is to get away from work, so you deserve to be able to leave it behind. But it will still be there when you get back, so you should do yourself a favour and follow the tips above. It will make your trip a lot more enjoyable if you do.