How to Prepare at Work for a Stress Free Vacation

How to Prepare at Work for a Stress Free Vacation

When you think about taking a vacation a few things probably come to mind. Sandy beaches, poolside drinks, warm weather, a cabana boy fanning you with a palm tree leaf. Ok, maybe the cabana boy isn’t there, but I think you get the picture.

However, I would argue that when you’re daydreaming about your ideal vacation (cabana boy included or not) you don’t imagine the ringing of your phone, or a morning spent scrolling through your work email. No, because on vacations phones are meant to be ignored and mornings are meant for a leisurely brunch.

The thing is though, a lot of us have a seriously hard time trying to cut ourselves off from work when we take a vacation. We’re living in a 24/7 world where we can speak to nearly anyone in mere seconds with a touch of button. Both amazing and sometimes annoying all at the same time.  

A  2015 survey from, made it just how glaringly clear the work-life habits of Americans differ from our counterparts around the world, particularly in Europe. On average, we fail to take four days of our vacation each year leaving those breezy, beach daydreams to shrivel up at our desks.

The same survey reported that “25% of workers worldwide claim to check their work email or phone messages once per day while on vacation.” There’s also perceptions that you shouldn’t take a vacation within six months of accepting a new job. And, there are even some people out there that either feel guilty for taking their vacation or worry it will hurt their career. Yikes!

But the truth is, taking a vacation is in the best interest of both you and your employer. Studies show that by taking time off, employees are more productive when they are at work. Not to mention taking time for ourselves make us happier, more-pleasant-to-be-around people.

So drop the guilt, pick up your passport and get ready to prepare for an unplugged, much deserved vaca with these tips.

Manage expectations with your team.

One of the best things you can do is to make sure you’re on the same page with your boss and fellow team members before you leave. Especially if you need them them to jump in and lend a hand for some tasks while you’re gone.

Will a coworker be helping you out? Make it as easy as possible for them. Do you need to go over something with them? Take the initiative to set up some time to meet so that they can review the material and ask follow up questions before you’re off the clock.

Do the leg work where you can. That way, what they have to do for you while you’re out of the office is basically a breeze.

[Related: Your Guide to Being a Coworker People Love to Work With]

Make sure you do the same with your boss.

Outside of reminding them when you’ll be out of the office, a good action item is to touch base with them on the status of your work.

Give them the low down on what projects or items you’ll be hitting the pause button on and will continue to work on when you get back. Similarly, let them know what tasks your coworkers will be assisting with during your absence.

Taking the time to do your due diligence and keep your boss informed will avoid any hiccups while you’re gone.

Take advantage of your out of office message.

Bless the person that invented auto reply. While you’re gone it will politely let the coworkers who email you know that you are unregretfully on vacation and you will in fact not be responding to their email until you return.

This is a win-win, that way others know when you’re out of the office if they try to reach out and in turn, it usually deters the amount of emails you come back to in our inbox. Score!

Make it super easy by snagging one of these out of office messages:

  • “Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office, on vacation with limited access to email. I look forward to responding to your message when I return on [date]. If your message needs immediate attention please reach out to [coworker/boss] for assistance.
  • I’m currently on vacation through [date]. If your message does not need immediate attention it may be best to email or contact me when I return. I look forward to connecting with you when I’m back in the office.
  • I will be on vacation beginning [date] through [date]. During this time I will not be checking email, but I look forward to responding to your message as soon as possible once I return. In my absence you can reach out to [coworker] if assistance is needed.

Overall, keep it short and sweet. Make sure to include your return date and if you list a coworker or your boss as a point of contact while you’re on vacation be sure to give them a heads up.

Prepare yourself for a stress free return.

When you reunite with your laptop after your stint of rest and relaxation, set yourself up for success so that you can ease back into the work week when you return.

Consider setting a quick 20 - 30 minutes to clean out your inbox, clean off your desk and write down three to five tasks you know you’ll want to devote your attention to when you get back.

You’ll thank yourself later when you come back with a fresh start and know what you need to focus on to get back into the groove.

Then, take a step back from your tech.

Now, the important part, break away from your phone, laptop and email or any other device that is going to be reminding you of the 9 to 5 while you're on your vacation.

Feeling the itch to check in? Try to fight it and remember that you deserve to take a break. There is a team of capable coworkers still back home that can more than likely handle anything that comes their way. Or, there’s a good chance that it can wait.

Unplug and enjoy your time so that you can come back refreshed.

Where are you headed to on your next vacation?