Summer time is just around the corner. And for many professionals across the continent, that means embarking on their next great escape — a well-deserved vacation where they can just relax and really enjoy life.
At least that’s what it should mean!
Unfortunately, many people neglect to use their vacation days, working themselves to the bone and dangerously flirting with burnout. We understand. There’s just so much to do and taking time off just never seems practical, or even possible.
But studies have proven that vacations can have a dramatically positive effect on productivity and success in the workplace. So rather than postponing your getaway indefinitely, let’s discover a few practical tips and strategies to better balance work and play instead.
Before You Leave
For those in management positions, a successful vacation begins long before you ever get behind the wheel of the family station wagon or step foot in an airport. Let’s discuss a few strategies that, if implemented, will help you plan effectively.
In order to temporarily leave behind the many work related responsibilities you deal with daily — even for just a quick trip — you must plan properly. This is the first step. And the further in advance you can make your plans, the better.
Decide when you’d like to take time off and for how long. Is your company planning any events — product launches, important corporate meetings, etc. — for this time period? Structuring your vacation around your work calendar will not only increase the chances of your time-off request being approved, but will also reduce your stress levels while you’re gone.
Once you feel confident about the time frame of your vacation, it’s time to have some fun and choose a destination! Perhaps you already know exactly where you want to go. But if not, here are a couple things to consider.
- Accessibility: Do you plan to be reachable while you’re on vacation? If so, how? Check into the WiFi availability and cell phone reception for any area you’re thinking about visiting.
- Time Zone: While “getting away from it all” and vacationing halfway around the world may sound great in theory, it may make working (if you plan to do so) while you travel more difficult. Your co-workers will still be carrying on with their normal schedules after all. Consider whether a large difference in time zones will pose a problem.
- Your Team: Do you have a strong team that can sufficiently carry the workload while you’re gone? If not, you may need to be more accessible while you travel and this should be taken into account before any vacation plans are solidified.
Once you’ve determined all this information, you can run it by your superiors and ask for their approval.
As a quick note, we don’t want to make it sound like your vacation should be all about your career. You work hard and deserve time off! But by at least acknowledging some of the hurdles you may face while planning your vacation, you’ll be better prepared to deal with them.
This isn’t always possible, but if it is, it’s well worth the effort. Ask yourself what can you get done prior to your vacation. With the right technology, many tasks can be automated to be completed while you’re away.
For example, blog and social media posts can be scheduled ahead of time, invoices can be drafted (and often times even sent) early, bills can be paid before their due dates, etc. Depending on your specific duties, there are many things you can potentially get done before you leave on your trip.
Prepare Your Staff
If you manage a team, it’s important you communicate your plans with them as soon as possible. You’ll also need to delegate temporary leadership roles and duties to various staff members while you’re gone.
If necessary, schedule in time to train your team to do any tasks they aren’t accustomed to doing. This will help them feel more comfortable while you’re gone and help you relax while on vacation; knowing your day-to-day responsibilities will be well taken care of.
Finally, make your team aware of your contact preferences while you’re away. Do you plan to work a couple of hours each morning? If so, ask that your team to only contact you (barring any emergencies) during that time frame.
Will you have WiFi access and/or cell phone reception? If there does happen to be a work related emergency, how can they best get in touch with you? Determining this before you leave will go a long way towards ensuring a fun and relaxing trip.
Prepare Your Clients
If you work closely with specific clients and/or customers on a regular basis, you may need to inform them of your travel plans as well. It’s just professional courtesy and good customer service to do so.
Simply introduce them to their new point of contact during your vacation — a quick email introduction is usually all that’s required — and assure them that they are in good hands.
While You’re on Vacation
Alright, you made it out of the office and you’re on your way to your destination. Congrats, enjoy this time! But before you arrive, prepare a strategy for how you plan to deal with work while you’re away.
If you do plan to work (or at least check in) while you’re on vacation. Then we recommend setting up time frames and boundaries. That fancy hotel suite just becomes an expensive office space if all you do is work your entire vacation.
So go into it with some kind of work plan to follow. Checking in with your team? Great, what time of day? Perhaps first thing in the morning makes the most sense for you. Or maybe mid-afternoon works best since you’ll need to put your young children down for a nap then anyway.
Also, where will you work? If you are traveling with kids, the hotel room might not be the best place. But maybe your hotel has a business center you can use or perhaps you’d prefer the local coffeehouse down the road.
Having at least some idea of how, when and where you plan to work while on vacation will streamline the process and allow you to get your work done quicker and enjoy your relaxation time more.
Prioritize Your Time
Again, the point of vacationing is to get away from the daily grind. That obviously means that — even if you’re checking in on a daily basis — you won’t be able to get as much done as during a normal work day.
So properly prioritizing your time is essential. What tasks must be completed now and which can be saved for when you get back? If you’re honest, you’ll find that most things aren’t urgent. So just let them be. Answer any pressing questions your staff may have, respond to important emails, etc., but don’t go overboard.
Set a Time Limit
In the same vein as our last two tips, set a time limit and stick to it religiously. Barring any work related disasters, there should be no reason why you can’t power down the work computer after a set time frame and go enjoy your vacation.
In fact, it may be harmful if you don’t! Numerous studies confirm the importance of rest and that your time away from work is crucial to your overall health as well as your productivity and success in your job. So set a time limit.
Though it’s usually quite rare, emergencies do happen from time to time. And as a leader in your company, you may be required to step in and put out metaphorical fires.
This could simply mean dedicating an entire day to work — fielding calls and emails, talking with specific clients, etc. — but, depending on the nature of the emergency, it could also mean an end to your trip.
When you are in management, this may be a reality you have to deal with and it’s better to be prepared for the scenario ahead of time.
When You Return
Returning to “normal” life after a relaxing vacation can often be a tough transition. But there are a few things you can do to make the experience less unpleasant.
Depending on how long you’ve been gone, there are bound to be numerous developments at your job. So you first need to be prepared for the potential whirlwind that may be awaiting you and an elevated workload for a few days once you return.
Hopefully, you’ve built a strong team around you and your first days back will simply consist of getting up to speed with recent happenings. But mentally preparing for a crazy schedule will better equip you to deal with whatever awaits you.
Have a Plan
Yes, time for another plan. To make the transition easier, decide beforehand how you will spend your first few days back in the office.
We’re sure you’ll have plenty of emails, voicemails, snail mail and the like to catch up with on your first day. We recommend getting this done soon after you return so it’s not hanging over your head.
You’ll also need to get the scoop from your team about any developments — good and bad — that happened while you were gone. Plan to hold a meeting with your staff members soon after you get back.
Enjoy Your Work
Finally, to help offset the glum disposition returning from a vacation can often give you, schedule something fun and enjoyable for your first day back.
Are there any specific work tasks you really enjoy doing? Even something simple like going to your favorite restaurant for lunch can lift your spirits and give you something to look forward to.
Whatever it is, get it scheduled for your first day back in the office!
Time away from the office — especially vacations to faraway destinations — are not only great fun, but necessary in order for you to perform your best at work. Science says so.
But for those in management positions, successful vacations take a little extra work and discipline. A bit of planning before, during and after, will allow you to have the time of your life and make memories you’ll cherish forever.
Use the tips outlined above to strategize and prioritize your time while traveling. Barring any drastic work related emergencies, you should be able to thoroughly enjoy your trip. Happy vacationing!