How to Prevent Mid-Vacation Work Emergencies
Work + Life Balance

How to Prevent Mid-Vacation Work Emergencies

IT'S ALREADY HARD ENOUGH TO DISCONNECT WITHOUT A ROGUE AND FRANTIC EMAIL THROWING A WRENCH IN YOUR VACATION PLANS. HERE'S HOW TO AVOID UNEXPECTED CRISES DURING YOUR TIME OFF.

Getting out of the office and finally cashing-in on your P.T.O. days is the best feeling. No stress. No emails. Just you and blissful relaxation. So why do you still have a sneaking feeling that something horrible is going to happen at work while you’re gone? 

Having a little anxiety when you’re out of the office is normal, but it shouldn’t be ruining your much-needed R&R. After all, you won’t be as focused, energized, or prepared when you get back to the office if you haven’t actually disconnected during the break. Here are the five steps you can take to make sure no work emergencies happen during your next trip.

1. CHAT ABOUT IT

On your last day in the office, make sure you check-in with your supervisor before closing your laptop for good. Even if you’ve already had an in-depth meeting to go over all projects, contacts, and responsibilities while you’re gone (which, incidentally, you should do the week before) it is good to stop by her office one time and run through one final conversation.

Here's a checklist to run through before you go:

  • What responsibilities will someone else be looking over while you’re gone?
  • Are there any emails or calls you’re expecting that someone else should return right away?
  • What upcoming deadlines do you have— and what’s your plan to reach them on time?
  • Who does your Out of Office (OOO) email say someone should contact?
  • When will you be on your email next?

Make sure you feel confident leaving the office with no strings attached and that your supervisor is clear that you have wrapped up all loose ends and won’t need to be contacted while you’re gone.

Don't say “I’ll be checking my email every few days” if you’re not actually going to. 

2. WORK WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES

Be proactive before you leave the office. Talk to colleagues to confirm they can step-in to help with an extra task or responsibility. Chances are your supervisor doesn’t have time to oversee all of your projects while you’re gone so see which of your teammates can chip-in with an extra line item.

Have one of your colleagues check your voicemail twice a week in case any VIP calls come in, or have someone prepared to answer emails that get forwarded to them from your OOO message.

3. HAVE A REALISTIC OUT OF THE OFFICE EMAIL 

Don't say “I’ll be checking my email every few days” if you’re not actually going to. If you need to disconnect from the office, do it 100 percent. Write a clear message for your OOO alert that manages expectations and stick to it. Otherwise, people will have unrealistic expectations of you responding to them and getting work done.

Write something like: “I will not be checking my email until my return on Monday, December 28th. Please contact my colleague Jane Smith if there is an emergency before then.”

Don’t feel like you need to check your email every few days if you’ve clearly defined expectations that you will not be on your email at all. Just make sure to reach an agreement with your boss about how you'll both handle an emergency (e.g. "I'll expect a call from you if there's something that can't wait.") {Click to Tweet}

Be considerate of your colleagues’ time by avoiding particularly stressful periods during the year. Don't jet off right before your company's big annual gala or a huge end-of-year deadline.

4. PLAN AROUND YOUR PROJECTS

It's hard to know what will be happening five months out when you initially plan your getaway. But whenever possible try to be considerate of your colleagues’ time by avoiding any particularly stressful periods during the year. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t jet off right before your company's big annual galaor a huge end-of-year deadline. You should also take into consideration your own work flux, e.g. what times of the year you know you have more on your plate or when you need to be around as a team player.

No one wants to be stuck with extra work because you couldn’t move your vacation by one week. Avoid any office drama or hart feelings by looking at the full calendar year, talking to your team, and seeing when it is best to take off for a week or two without putting anyone out. Better yet, see if you can plan vacations as an entire team so no one runs into a sticky situation down the road when trying to get-through all of their P.T.O. days in December.

5. DON'T CHEAT

Preventing work emergencies is also about holding yourself accountable, and we tend to cheat in two ways: 

CHEATING OTHERS

It's tempting as the final days of work wind down to slack off or push deadlines until after you return because you're distracted by your upcoming plans. Don't. Make a to-do list of everything that needs to get done before you go and hold yourself to it. 

CHEATING YOURSELF

You can also create plenty of your own drama even if you’re on a beach a thousand miles away when you’re overthinking and stressing about what's happening in your absence.

Don’t cheat by checking your work email “just to see if anything big has happened” or dial into your voicemail “so you can be sure” everything's all right. If you don’t allow yourself to disconnect and let the stress go, you won’t be of use to anyone when you return. You’ll just be more frazzled and high-strung.

- - -

If you have honest conversations with your coworkers, set realistic expectations for yourself, and plan appropriately, you can have a phone-free vacation—well, except for your Instagram filters of course. Take your “me time,” and you’ll be ready to tackle your first day back in the office with so much energy and dedication, your colleagues just might appreciate your vacation time as much as you did.

* * * 

Have you found a way to actually disconnect while on vacation? We'd love to hear your tips.