Americans are notoriously bad about taking time off work. In 2017 alone, we left 705 million vacation days unused, and 52% of us ended the year with PTO in the bank.
Vacation isn’t the only reason you might have to take time off from work, of course. Maybe you have medical or family leave coming up or a long-awaited sabbatical. (Or, you live in France where everyone takes the month of August off. Go, you!!)
No matter what your reason is for getting the heck out of Dodge, these 8 tips will help you line up your organizational ducks before you go:
- Write down all the projects you have in the hopper now.
List what you and your team are working on now, what’s in preliminary stages and what’s just ahead. This is a key first step because it creates a visual that shows everyone what’s happening.
Use the medium that makes the most sense for you – on paper, in an email or Word/Google Doc document or on a whiteboard that everyone on your team can access easily.
- Plug your list into a group calendar, or update your project management platform.
Highlight project phases, due dates, key players, resources and anything else that will help your team understand what needs to be done when and by whom.
- Meet with your team to distribute your list and discuss progress.
Be sure everyone involved in project understands deadlines, responsibilities and co-workers to keep the work going. Introduce team members who don’t work directly together. Also, let department heads or other direct reports know what their employees have on their plates while you’re gone.
- Designate a trustworthy team member to manage things while you’re gone.
This person is the one who will track progress, nudge laggards and have the authority to resolve problems and disputes in your office.
Review your project calendar with your second in command. Be sure everyone you work with understands that this person is in charge until you return, and give them your stand-in’s contact information.
- Review your project list before you go.
Put everything you need to know in a detailed cheat sheet and email it to yourself and your stand-in. This is your fallback to be sure you have covered all your bases and can help you in case things totally fall apart back at the office.
(Yeah, we know. You should be able to unplug, but we’re also realistic. You just know someone’s going to ping you instead of solving a problem himself.)
- Let key vendors know you’re gone and who’s in charge.
Your vendors should be invested in the work they do for you and in your success and not content to let problems slide in your absence.
Our mailing.com customer-service reps are pros at covering for each other when someone is out of the office, but they also appreciate customers who keep them in the loop so they can keep small blips from blowing up into big ones.
- Did you mess up somewhere? Give yourself some grace!
This is essential for your peace of mind while you’re gone and when you get back. Nobody is perfect. Something always gets overlooked. You might miss a key email or two while you were gone, but that’s okay!
- Be realistic about how much you can do when you get back.
Yes, you will have to wade through an inbox full of emails, an intranet overflowing with messages and a ton of mail on your desk. Don’t over-commit yourself on overdue projects. Start with the most important work.
How to keep your projects under control
If you don’t have a system for managing your workload write this on a Post-It note and stick it on your computer before you leave: “Check out project management platforms when I get back.”
An online management system can help you and your team stay on top of the workload with less stress and more accountability.
Here at mailing.com, we manage both in-office and remote work with Monday.com. Other popular platforms are Asana, Trello and Basecamp. All have a free basic level so you can try it out to see which one works best for your team.
A project management platform lets you tag team members with responsibilities, resources and deadlines and see at a glance who’s on track and who needs a nudge.
A key step: If you’re the team leader, remind everyone to continue using the platform to stay on top of the workload. It can be a great tool, but only if everyone commits to it.
Now, ready to write that out-of-office message? Enjoy your time off and come back rested and recharged!