It’s that time of the year. Everyone is going on vacation. And why not? The weather is gorgeous, kids are out of school, and there are plenty of great travel deals for a week or two away from the office.
As relaxing as a vacation can be, preparing for it is anything but. Beyond planning out all the details of your vacation, such as where you’re staying, what you’re doing, and how you’re getting there, you also have to coordinate your work responsibilities while you’re out.
If you want to enjoy your vacation, you have to manage your work assignments in advance.
To ensure this summer’s vacation is worry-free for both you and your company, we’ve compiled a vacation checklist to make sure all your “i”s are dotted and your “t”s are crossed.
Strategically Plan Your Schedule
You cannot get everything done before going on vacation. Instead, recognize that you’re allowed to go on vacation and leave some of your work undone, and then strategically plan out what you can and need to do when you return. Stick to the critical items.
For example, contact your high-priority clients and project heads a week or two before you leave to make a list of what you need to accomplish before vacation. Prioritize what you can accomplish within the time frame, and set up a coworker as the point-person on the assignments while you’re gone.
For everything else, set clear goals of what you want to finish before you leave—and what’s okay to wait until after your return. This will help you create a manageable checklist that you can accomplish in the given timeframe.
- Don’t book anything the day before you leave for your vacation—no meetings or assignments. You’ll want enough wiggle room to take care of last-minute details without getting overwhelmed.
- If you can, add a day to your vacation on the front and backend, so you have two free work days without interruptions.
- Plan to leave work a few hours early the day before your vacation. This will give you time to decompress before traveling.
Responding While You’re Out of the Office
Before you leave, create customized auto-reply messages for your email and voicemail. You don’t want to return to the office with angry emails and voicemails demanding to know where you are and why you haven’t responded. You also don’t want to be stuck answering your messages the entire time you’re gone.
The point of a vacation is to unplug.
Set up an auto-reply for your phone and email that includes information about:
- How long you’ll be out of the office.
- When you’ll be back. Give yourself a day or two—it’s better to exceed a client’s expectations than disappoint them with a long response wait.
- If you’ll respond to messages when you’re gone, set a date and time when you’ll be available.
- Identify a contact during your absence (name, email, and phone).
- Optional: Promote a whitepaper download, social media account, new product, video, etc.
Email Response Example
Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m out of the office from [DAY, MONTH DATE] to [DAY, MONTH DATE] with limited access to email.
If your question can wait, I’ll be responding to the emails when I return on [DAY, MONTH DATE]. For time-sensitive matters, please contact [NAME] at [EMAIL] or [PHONE], and they will take care of you.
Did you email me about [SERVICE YOU PROVIDE]? Great! You can learn more here: [LINK TO A CASE STUDY, WHITE PAPER, OR VIDEO].
I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Voice Mail Example
You’ve reached the voicemail box of [NAME]. Unfortunately, I’m of the office and will not return calls until DAY, MONTH DATE.
If your call can wait, please leave me a message with your name and phone number, and I will return your call upon my return. If your call is urgent, please contact [NAME] at [PHONE NUMBER]. They will offer immediate assistance.
Thank you for calling.
Preparing Your Coworkers for Vacation
Your coworkers want to help while you’re gone! They just need to know what you need from them. The key is to be specific on what you expect and communicate the rules of engagement while you’re away.
For example, how available will you be? Do you want to be reachable by email? How often do you plan to check your inbox—once every 24 or 48 hours? You might want to set a specific date and time for responding to phone calls and emails. Then, invite your coworkers to contact you during that window—but don’t answer your phone or email outside that period.
Set clear expectations and write them down, so everyone on the team is on the same page.
You should also write out a detailed list of your clients and projects with all pertinent information—including the contact details, current workload expectations, etc. This list should be provided to the coworker(s) you’ve appointed to take charge of your accounts. Include exactly what is okay for your team to handle on their own and when you need to be informed.
- Create an emergency contact route—for example, all text messages are for emergencies only. Then define what an emergency is and offer a few examples.
- Decide how much or how little work you want to do while you’re on vacation. Next, set boundaries based on those expectations. If you don’t want to even think about the office, then clearly state that you will only be available during an emergency.
- Let your coworkers know well in advance that you’ll be on vacation, and remind them multiple times. They’ll need opportunities to prepare.
Work Vacation Checklist
To enjoy your time off from work, follow this complete checklist:
Two Months Before Vacation
- Put your vacation on the company calendar (look at your PTO, talk to your boss, tell your coworkers).
Two Weeks Before Vacation
- Start crafting your strategic schedule and working ahead.
- Talk to all your clients/project heads about your vacation.
- Prioritize the work you’ll need to accomplish before you leave and what can wait until after your return.
A Week Before Vacation
- Assign a coworker as the lead on your accounts and projects during your absence. Introduce them to your clients and provide all the information and contacts they’ll need to be successful.
- Talk to your coworkers about your absence (again) and set boundaries. Write an email that explains exactly how and when you can be contacted—and when your coworkers can expect a response.
- Reserve the last two to three hours of your last day on your calendar, so people don’t schedule meetings during that time.
The Day Before
- Set your out-of-office email and voicemail messages.
- Talk to your coworkers and clients one more time, covering any last-minute details and reminding them of your contact information.
- Hand out or email all the written documentation that details your clients/projects and critical work.
- Clear off your desk and computer. Get organized before you leave.
- Say your goodbyes.
- Leave early.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to relax without experiencing disruptions from work. The only thing left to do at this point is to enjoy your vacation!