If you're finally able to take some time off from work, congrats! No matter how intimidating the prospect of asking for a reprieve is, leaving work behind even for a just a few days can make a world of difference in your stress levels. (Plus, that time off is yours; you earned it!)
One of the best ways to disconnect when you're gone — and feel a little less crazed when you're back — is to loop in everyone who might be affected by your absence and leave a solid OOO note.
"One very important step on your vacation checklist should be notifying all your internal coworkers and external customers that you will be out of office and whom they can contact while you are away," says Lisa-Marie Gustafson, a human resources manager at Hexcel. "As with anything, the more you communicate and in varied ways, the better prepared" — and less aggravated — "your coworkers will be."
She says to start by identifying who your backup contacts will be when you're out, and then meeting with them and making sure that being a point of reference is something they can do while you're gone. They shouldn't be surprised to see that their name is on your out-of-office message — or face an unexpected barrage of requests on your behalf. You don't want to leave extended colleagues, clients, or customers in the lurch either.
The more you communicate in varied ways, the better prepared — and less aggravated — your coworkers will be.
Next, in the time leading up to your vacation, remind everyone on your team that you'll be out, and make sure this is noted on any internal calendars. People are busy! If you tell someone that you'll be heading out two months before you leave and then neglect to remind anyone until the day before, you're bound to learn that your time off slipped someone's mind.
"Normally, employers require staff members to get their supervisor’s approval before going on vacation, so he or she will be expecting the staff member to be away for a specified time period," says Valerie Keels, the Head of DC Office Services at Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. "That said, it’s always good to inform your supervisor of the work that may require attention during your absence, and what you’ve done to prepare for it."
Keels says that at Gavi, employees prepare "hand-over notes" for team members or paid temporaries with details on any outstanding projects, duties, or responsibilities that may require attention while the vacationer is away.
"That note should include the names and contact information for both internal and external partners who may inquire or need to be informed of issues," she adds, "as well as a cell phone number where the vacationer can be reached in case of emergency." If you'll be in a different time zone, it might be wise to clearly note that and leave an email address in addition to or in lieu of your number so that you can check in on your own time if absolutely necessary.
Finally, don't forget to set your email automatic out-of-office response. Gustafson suggests something like:
Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office on vacation/business travel/in a meeting from Tuesday, May 2 through Monday, May 8, and will not be responding to emails or phone calls during this time. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jane Smith at 123-456-7891 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You might also want to consider leaving the same message on your voicemail. For matters like this, there's no such thing as covering your bases too much.
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