Airline tickets? Check. Pet sitter? Check. Sunscreen? Check.
Vacation season is upon us, but not everyone seems to have gotten the memo. In fact, American employees reported using only half of their eligible time off in the past 12 months.
And it could be because they fear the potential work pileup, making it impossible to enjoy a stress-free vacation. In fact, 40% of respondents said it was the No. 1 reason they resist taking a vacation, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
But re-entry doesn’t have to be brutal. As you prepare your vacation readiness checklist this summer, note these seven ways to make both your getaway and return smoother.
1. Give plenty of notice
The last few days before you leave are going to be hectic, so it’s best to give ample notice of your departure.
Make sure to double-check coverage with key internal allies well in advance, and if you think it’s appropriate, give external clients a couple of weeks. Summarize your plan for how their work will be handled while you’re gone, including an introduction to any backup colleagues, and assure them that upcoming deadlines will be met.
2. Focus only on necessary work before you go
“Many of us stress about doing extra work before leaving in hopes of cutting down on the amount you have when you come back,” says psychologist J. Kip Matthews, vice president of AK Counseling and Consulting. But it’s better not to add the stress of mentally insisting on inbox zero, especially if that’s not your norm.
“Focus and prioritize those tasks that do have a deadline while you’re gone,” he says.
3. Create cheat sheets for important information
From billing procedures to passwords, leave detailed notes for your colleagues so they’ll have one less reason to contact you.
4. Determine your level of disconnectedness
Everyone has a different threshold for what works for them. Some people prefer to truly unplug and relax. Others feel better keeping an eye on the office by checking in once a day or perusing emails each morning.
By communicating your plan, your colleagues will know how often, if at all, they should expect to hear from you — and won’t fret when you’re not readily communicative.
5. Change your voicemail and set your email auto-response
Away messages should include the following: the fact that you’re out of the office for an extended period of time, the date you’ll be back, and whom they should contact in the meantime.
Most email auto-responses have a variety of options, such as sending different messages to internal and external emails, and how many times you’ll send an away message to the same email address.
Some people might be copying you on a string of emails, so, often just the first out-of-office message is necessary.
6. Create a back-to-work list
As you’re prepping to leave, inevitably you’ll come upon tasks that you don’t have time for or that will be nearing deadline when you return.
Making note of them allows you to free your mind while you’re relaxing and provides a blueprint for priorities when you get back. On your list, include ending your vacation away message so that in September people aren’t still hearing that you’re out from June 18 to 22.
7. Build in a “buffer” day on your return
Nothing saps that vacation feeling faster than returning to a full calendar of meetings. If possible, publicity state your return as one day later than it is, so you can have an appointment-free day to catch up on correspondence and crises that arose in your absence.
If you can get back to someone who thinks you’re still gone, they’ll just be pleasantly surprised. Don’t forget to change your computer screen to a vacation scene — all the better to remember the memories.
About the Author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer covering business and consumer topics. She creates branded content for Fortune 500 companies, and her work has appeared on LearnVest, Costco Magazine, Forbes, TheGlassHammer.com and IDEA Fitness. Follow her @cathieericson.