Nothing beats the feeling of excitement you get when you prepare to use your paid time off (PTO) to go on a trip, take a vacation, or take some much needed time to chill out. The best comparison would be the last day of school before summer. As a kid, you could coast by after exams and embrace the carefree summer lifestyle, knowing that you wouldn’t need to think about school again until late fall.
Adults, on the other hand, aren’t that lucky anymore. We are full-time employees that can’t just tell our bosses that we’re peaceing out to go on vacation whenever we feel like it. As employees, we have to ask ourselves certain questions before we leave. After all, we all want to make sure we leave our respective departments well prepared so that we aren’t spending our time away working the entire time.
Are you ready to schedule in your PTO and head out? Ask — and answer — these key questions first.
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1. Are you giving enough advance notice?
Mikaila Turman, Director of People at Goodhire, has more than 13 years of experience in human resources and recruiting. While booking a spontaneous flight sounds delightful in theory, it’s not in practice for your HR department.
Turman recommends asking yourself if you’re giving your employer enough notice first. Her recommendation is that if the employee plans to be out for a week or more, they give at least one month as their lead time.
Notice she says at least one month. The more lead time, the better, Turman advises.
“That way, the employee is able to communicate and plan ahead with regard to workload, especially if their absence significantly impacts their team.”
2. Do you need to coordinate with other team members?
Think about the season that you’re choosing to use your PTO. Summer is highly popular with employees who take family vacations, while winter often means heading home for the holidays. Chances are your time off request is going in at the same time as others, including members of your team, and not all requests may be granted.
Turman still recommends putting in your request early. If everyone receives time off at roughly the same timeframe, it’s important to coordinate with everyone’s schedules. This ensures that not too many team members are out at the same time, so there’s always at least one person around to help out.
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3. How’s your workload looking?
Before you begin setting your out of office messages, take a look at your present assignments and upcoming deadlines. Unlike the carefree child I mentioned earlier who could leave school behind for the summer, adults can’t abandon their responsibilities for vacation. The reality for those that do is that they will either wind up working nonstop during their trip or risk losing their jobs entirely.
The best approach is to divide and conquer to the best of your ability before you leave. Wrap up any loose ends and assignments with deadlines scheduled for when you’re out of the office. Delegate tasks to certain members of your team.
One last pro tip? Add another point of contact when setting up your out of office message. Talk to a trusted team member before you go and ask if they can act as an emergency contact while you’re away. If they agree, include their contact information in your OOO email — and vice versa. Act as their point of contact when they go on vacation, and encourage a similar buddy system with your other coworkers.
Now, you’re ready to hit the road. Enjoy your time off!
~by Deborah Sweeney, via Fairygodboss
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A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.