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How to Plan So You Can Actually Enjoy Your Vacation

Summer vacation... you dream about it, save, and plan. You worked hard to earn those PTO hours, but when it comes time to pack up and leave, you find yourself suddenly stressed out about work. Can you really leave? Who is going to handle your projects? What if something important pops up? Or you miss a crucial meeting? You start thinking about sorting through hundreds of unread emails when you return, (many of them marked Urgent! )and you may start to feel like this trip isn't a great idea after all...

But the truth is that time away from work can be extremely beneficial, even necessary, to recharge and bring your best self to work. Many come back to work more productive, and the positive benefits like decreased stress and better sleep can last for weeks after you return. Allina Health shares these data-driven reasons taking a vacation is good for your mental and physical health. Time away from work also helps prevent burnout and can give you a fresh outlook.

But how can you actually enjoy that vacation you're planning and not feel handcuffed to your email while you're on the beach? We'd like to offer the following tips to help you plan ahead so you can enjoy your PTO to the max, even if you're on a staycation at home:


Make a list of what absolutely needs to get done before you leave–and get it done. It's better to put the time in before you leave so you can truly relax on your vacation.

Next, make a list of what absolutely needs to get done the day or week you return– and don’t do it until then.

Collaborate and Communicate

Communicate with your team in advance to touch base on your ongoing projects and any hot items or tasks that need completed. Remind your team again as your vacation approaches and the day before if possible.

Hand it Off (and have some trust)

Everyone likes to think they're irreplaceable and no one can quite do their job like they can. Vacation time aside, you need to have trust in your team to cover for you and that your management team will help with any bumps along the way.

1. Meet with your backups. Set meetings with people who can cover for you 1-2 weeks prior to your time off. Bring them up to speed and develop a plan for outstanding items while you are out. If you're going to be in a remote area without service, make sure you communicate those types of details about your availability.

2. Turn on your Out-of-Office assistant and notify people you will not be checking email or will have limited access to email and will respond on XX/XX date.

3. Provide your backup's contact info: email address and/or phone number (or 2) in your out of office reply for people to contact while you are out.

Set Expectations

Before you start your PTO, make a conscious decision about whether or not you are going to check email or not while you are out. Communicate that decision to those who need to know. If you decide to check email, limit it to once per day. Respond ONLY if it’s an emergency. Recipients will make note if you reply and will be more likely to reach out while you’re OOO. Your reply may even make others forget that you're on vacation or help to set a precedent of working while on vacation.

If concerns come up that need addressed while you are out, make a list and respond to them when you return.

Give Yourself Time to Adjust

Consider a “quiet return” to the workplace to give yourself time to adjust from your vacation and not feel rushed back to work. For example, if you actually return from vacation on Sunday, take Monday off, too. This gives you time to read through emails and get your head organized without interruptions for your actual return on Tuesday. It also could avoid potential stress of delayed flights or arriving home later that you planned.

Be Mindful

Try to unplug and stay offline. Consider turning off email and other notifications so you don't feel tempted to engage. Don't stress yourself out by scrolling through a long conversation thread or thinking of all the things you need to do when you are back. Try to be present in the moment and truly relax and have fun with those you are with. Work will be there waiting when you are back.

"Remember, working while on vacation doesn’t make you a better or higher performing employee. Taking an actual break from work for an extended period of time will," says Jennifer Osborn, TalentSENSE President.

One Harvard Business Review article shared that people who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. People who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.

So plan that trip, set your out-of-office email and enjoy the vacation time that you've earned!


Tell us! Do you use all of your vacation time? Why or why not? What tips do you have for planning to be out of office?


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