Company Culture

How to Prep for Time Off Like a Pro


Written by Danielle Smith • January 17, 2023

How to Prep for Time Off Like a Pro

Going on vacation? Finally getting that surgery you’ve been putting off? Having a baby and taking parental leave? There are many reasons why people take time off work, whether that’s a few days or several months. While not everyone gets the chance to prepare in advance for their leave, being intentional about preparations for stepping away from the office can help you feel less stressed during your time off and upon your return. Your colleagues might also appreciate your efforts!

We’ve gathered a few tips to help you prep for your PTO like a pro so you can fully enjoy your time off.

Why is taking time off important?

Taking time off of work is important for your overall wellbeing for many reasons. While work may offer you the satisfying feelings of productivity and accomplishment, it might not completely meet all of your needs. Even if you feel energized by your career, your work might benefit from a break to give yourself a chance to catch up and recharge.

Taking time off allows your mind and body to reset. Sometimes, we get so stuck in our weekly routines that we resort to autopilot: wake up, breakfast, commute, work, etc. To be more mindful about our lives requires us to break free of this autopilot, and nothing does that more than sleeping all day or jetsetting. Taking time off also gives you time to reconnect with who you are - you can spend more time with the people that you love and your hobbies, without the time pressure of work to hold you back. You might find that your happiness, fulfillment, and physical health also take a turn for the better during or after some time off.

Is there a benefit to encouraging employees to take time off?

As shared above, there are a lot of benefits to taking time off, so encouraging your employees to take time off is a great way to support their wellbeing. This includes decreasing the risks of burnout.

Burnout is a common experience for many workers, no matter the industry. Burnout feels like physical, emotional, and cognitive fatigue - it feels like nothing is easy and that you no longer care about what’s happening around you. Employees who are burnt out are irritable, unmotivated, and feel hopeless that their situations will get better. Their work will likely suffer because of this debilitating mental state. To avoid burnout, it’s important to give your team plenty of time off so they can have balance in their lives and find meaning from what’s important to them.

How do you manage deadlines that will pass while you're OOO?

When you’re out-of-office, you might miss some key dates for your projects, accounts, or clients. To make it easier for you to slap on that automatic reply feature on your email, try to internalize the mindset that your company will go on without you for the amount of time that you’re away. It might run less smoothly, your teammates might miss you - but it won’t crash and burn if you decide to take a week off. So let yourself off the hook.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should drop the ball before you take time off. If you have the opportunity to prepare before your absence, you might consider planning around your deadlines at least a month ahead of your departure. Map out what deadlines you’ll be away for, and see if you can complete your tasks ahead of these deadlines. If it’s not possible for you to work ahead, work with your manager to see if someone can cover your work while you’re away.

For office managers, how do you properly delegate your regular responsibilities that might not fall to anyone else?

If there’s no one to cover you, then you might need to get creative with your delegation. When you’re an office manager, you’re nearly indispensable - but not indispensable enough that you don’t deserve to take vacation (no one is!).

When you can delegate tasks to your teammates, be specific about what needs to get done and how to do it. It can be helpful to write out detailed instructions, even including screenshots where you can. If there aren’t teammates to help while you’re away, see if there are any tasks you can do ahead of time so that the office can continue to run while you’re away.

If you can, try to see your time off as an opportunity for those in your office to learn more about your role. They might enjoy learning how you keep the office running smoothly, and they’ll surely have a better appreciation of your work once you get back!

Should you be constantly making yourself available while on vacation?

Can this be a one word answer? No.

If you’re constantly making yourself available while on vacation, you might as well be at the office. To properly enjoy your vacation, try your best to disconnect. This might include muting your notifications or even - dramatic gasp - temporarily deleting your work-related apps while you’re away.

Setting boundaries for yourself is a pathway to career sustainability. That being said, it’s natural to feel listless without work, especially if it’s been a long time since your last vacation. If work is so important to you that you feel like you need to keep your finger on the pulse at all times, you might want to consider taking a shorter trip or moving your vacation to a time of the year where your presence isn’t necessary. It might also be helpful to examine why you feel that you need to be constantly available.

How do you deal with the dreaded overstuffed inbox when you return?

Have you ever felt reluctant to log into your email account because you don’t want to know how many unread emails you have? There are a few ways to avoid getting overwhelmed by this phenomenon:

  • Before you leave, place a hold in your calendar to go through your emails. This gives you breathing space without meetings so you can focus solely on sifting through your inbox. It’s best to put this hold across the first several hours that you’re back.
  • Give your inbox a quick scan before diving into the details. Scroll through your emails to get a birds-eye-view of what’s happened since you were away. You might flag a few emails that you know are important, or you might see how many emails are newsletters or other emails that are not directly related to your work.
  • Set up helpful categories. As you go email-by-email, scan through and assign it a priority: high, medium, low, or no priority. After you’ve gone through and categorized all of your unread emails, you can then go to your high priority emails for a more thorough read and a response. Next, move onto your medium priority emails, and onwards. This breaks your emails into smaller categories that are much more manageable.

Are there any tools that can help you?

There are many tools out there that can help you manage your workload while you’re away. A food-related tool might be recurring catering orders through CaterCow so lunches are squared away. You can also rely on your email’s automatic replies feature to alert your contacts that you’re away. Blocking out your calendar will remind your coworkers that you’re away, making your calendar your best friend. You might also look into mindfulness tools or apps, in case you feel like you need help with feeling grounded (and not overwhelmed), motivated, or put together upon your return. Lastly, be sure to have a good playlist to get you through your unread emails and other tasks once you’re back!

By following these tips, you can focus on having fun and taking rest during your time off - enjoy!