As the weather gets warmer and schools let out for summer, you’re probably hoping to take a vacation in the next few months. Whether you embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world or opt for a “staycation” in your own home, you will likely take some time off from work. A little planning can go a long way toward making sure that your absence disrupts your colleagues and your workplace as little as possible.
PLAN AROUND DEADLINES. When you’re choosing the time frame for your vacation, make sure you don’t have any hard deadlines or deliverables that will come due while you’re gone or immediately after you return. If your trip is scheduled to begin right after a big deadline, either make certain you can meet that deadline so the project doesn’t shift into your planned time off or create a contingency plan to cope with a delay.
DETERMINE YOUR AVAILABILITY. Think about your travel plans. Realistically, how often will you be willing and able to check voice mail and e-mail? Will you be camping on a mountain in West Virginia, with no connectivity for the entire time you’re gone? Or will you be hanging out at home, where you could check voice mail and e-mail on a daily basis? Also consider how often you want to check in. Some people need to disconnect completely to recharge, and others feel more comfortable if they can keep in touch regularly.
SPELL OUT YOUR AVAILABILITY. Let your boss and direct reports know how often you’ll check voice mail or e-mail and when they can expect to hear from you. Set their expectations appropriately, and then stick to what you said. If you do leave a contact number, expect people to use it.
GET COVERED. For each of your major projects, identify a colleague who will be available to answer questions and make decisions in your absence. Put that person’s contact information in your e-mail autoreply, in your voice mail message, and on your office door. For regularly scheduled meetings, ask someone else to cover for you, if necessary. Of course, this means that you should be willing to cover for others when they take time off.
PUBLICIZE YOUR ABSENCE. Let people know ahead of time when you will be out of the office. Give your colleagues enough notice that they can obtain what they need from you before your vacation. You don’t want people coming to ask you for a crucial piece of information and then being surprised that your office is empty.
With enough foresight and planning, you may find that when you return, no one will have noticed you were gone. Although it can be sobering to realize you’re not as indispensable as you thought, it’s actually a positive reflection of your organizational and planning skills. If you can show that you have your responsibilities under control and that your workplace can function smoothly even when you’re not there, it will be that much easier for both you and your colleagues the next time you want to take some time off.
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