Eliminating the Stress From Vacation Time
The holidays are coming up, and you’ve got some time off, but you’re feeling anything but relaxed. In fact, your stress level has gone through the roof as you prepare to leave the office. You worry about how work will progress while you’re out and who will assume your responsibilities during that time.
In today’s demanding business environment, it can be challenging to take time off without some concerns about your absence. While you can’t anticipate every potential problem, there are steps you can take to help you forget about the office while you’re away:
Meet with your supervisor to determine which employees might be able to handle your projects while you’re out. Try to distribute the assignments among several people, if possible, to minimize the impact on others’ workloads. Ask another IT professional in your group to serve as your backup for questions, and offer to do the same for him when needed. Direct people to this contact when preparing “out of office” e-mail replies and voicemail messages.
Put critical information in writing
Think about any issues that might arise while you’re gone and leave explicit instructions for those assisting you. For instance, if you’ve experienced repeated problems with one of the company’s servers recently, write down the steps you’ve taken to resolve them. That way, co-workers won’t have to start from scratch to find a solution. Also, provide the names and numbers of experts, such as consultants, vendors and in-house staff members, who can offer guidance on specific technical concerns.
Tell people of your plans
Let others know in advance that you will be out of the office and for how long. This will give them time to prepare and reduce the number of last-minute requests before you leave.
Keep your schedule as free as possible during the last days before your vacation. You’ll find it easier to wrap up projects and leave the office feeling prepared for your time off.
Don’t take work with you
Breaks are essential to recharge your batteries and bring a fresh approach to IT initiatives. Try to leave the laptop, cell phone, pager and PDA at home. Share your vacation contact information with a trusted employee, and ask her to get in touch with you only in a true emergency situation—not when you received an extra shipment of monitors by mistake.
Minimize work voicemails and e-mails
Even if you’re staying in town, resist the temptation to check your messages remotely or to catch up on a few “small” work projects. Treat the time as you would if you were away from home. If you must access your e-mail and voicemail, do so during specific times, such as early morning or evening. Let people know when and how frequently you will be checking in.
Plan for your return
Preparing for the days after your vacation is just as important as planning for the days prior to leaving. Without the proper foresight, you may find that the benefits of your break are quickly erased by stressful demands when you come back.
Consider returning to work a couple days after your vacation endsYou’ll be better able to focus on what’s waiting for you at the office if you’re not distracted by post-trip concerns, such as errands and unpacking.
Create a schedule for the first few days back at work
Plan time to review project updates, check your messages, and meet with colleagues and managers. Since people will ask about your holiday, give a quick synopsis and offer to share more details during your lunch break or after work. It may take a day or two to return to your normal productivity level, so be careful not to overbook the first week back on the job.
Planning can make all the difference between a stress-filled absence and enjoyable time away. Think carefully about what is needed for work to progress while you’re out, make arrangements for backup support and don’t forget to plan for your return. Preparation will help ease stress and allow you to achieve the maximum benefit from your days off.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.