Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The considerate vacationer

office fashion blogger angeline evans the new professional office etiquette vacation preparation
View from my beach chair. South Beach, June 2010.

Time off from work can be refreshing and relaxing.  Let's face it--we all need a vacation from time to time (which reminds me, I should plan one someday).  But what about those left behind to cover while you're gone? Here are some tips to getting your vacation and keeping your coworkers happy, too.

  • While you can't foresee every circumstance or project, try to be considerate of general work trends when planning your vacation.  Do you have annual deadlines in October? Then take a spring or summer vacay.  If you aren't quite sure, float it by your boss in conversation by mentioning you were thinking of some dates but wasn't sure if anything was coming down the pipe then. They'll appreciate the gesture, and you won't be known as the guy or gal who left everyone high and dry during busy season.
  • Get your vacation request approved as soon as you set the date for your vacation. This little detail is often so easy, and getting it on you and your boss's calendars early will help you plan projects around the date.
  • Don't remind everyone and their mom about your vacation for weeks leading up to it. You don't have to hide it, but constant harping about vacation can often just remind your coworkers what they aren't doing or getting. In work-related talk, bring it up if it is relevant, for example, at a staff meeting where assignments for that time period are being discussed.
  • Get your projects to a good point.  Wrap up the items you can, and note where you are on ongoing projects so you remember the status when you return.
  • Set an out-of-office message in your email and voicemail. Confession--I suck at this part. I get phone calls maybe once a week, so I never change my voice mail, and I sometimes check my email on vacation, so I forget to do that, too.  Usually my vacays are only one or two days (to make a long weekend), but if it were for a week or more, I'd definitely put something up.
  • If you are subscribed to any listservs that go into your inbox, see if you can put them on pause. It is so annoying to be on a listserv where everytime  message is sent someone's out-of-office replies back, and since it's a listserv it goes to the whole group. If you can't find a pause option (usually some kind of hold email you send to the administrating email addy), unsubscribe and resubscribe later.
  • Touch base with your boss on your projects before you leave. This is just common courtesy.  Don't leave your boss wondering if things will get done, especially if you do have everything in a manageable state for when you get back.
  • Organize your desk. Throw away any old coffee cups, and arrange your papers and files neatly so that it's not overwhelming when you get back.
  • Get settled immediately. Check your emails and voicemails. Get rid of those annoying blinking reminders (anyone else think those red voicemail lights look foreboding? There's gotta be a better color they could use). It's fine if you are behind on your first day back, but don't expect to get any slack after that.
  • Debrief with your boss. Find out if anything new came up, and use this information to prioritize accordingly.  Chances are you have plenty of work just picking up where you left off, but their priority could have fallen if something else has come up.
  • If you like your coworkers, bring something back! Keep it simple and relevant--food is always a good option. My boss has brought back chocolate-covered macadamias from Hawaii and cookies from France. I've brought back candies and gifts from Taiwan, and key lime pie cookies from Florida.  Hey, they had to work while you were off galavanting...give them a taste of your fun.
Real Simple also recently shared their top five things to do at work before you go on vacation. It's your vacation--you earned it. So I hope you take it from time to time. I'm a firm believer that using your vacation time is necessary for keeping yourself sane from day to day.

What do you do to prepare for a vacation? Any tips?


  1. Thanks for the great article! In late March this year I'm going on my first real vacation since starting my job (ie, more than just a three day weekend) so this tips will definitey be helpful.

    I feel bad because my vacation is during my busy time at work, but it's only busy for me and no one else has to pick up my work, so I hope it's not too bad!

  2. Great advice!

    As a supervisor I am tempted to print this page and casually leave it around the office. I hate to be the meanie who says NO VACATION but seriously folks, you KNOW when we are busy! And I am sorry it happens to be around the holidays but that's non-profit fundraising!

  3. Excellent list! One thing I do is make sure to document any tasks I do that someone else may have to do while I'm gone. If there are daily/weekly duties that can't wait & someone must fill in, it *really* helps to thoroughly write out how to do this task. Give a copy (print & email) to the fill-in person & to your supervisor. This is also handy for cross-training & new hires.

    And people really do need to take their vacations. It's for your own good ;-) Heck, it's for the company's bottom-line good -- a lot of tech companies have too much unused PTO on the books, which messes up accounting. Plan ahead & use what you're given.

  4. @ ashley - Yeah, sometimes things are unavoidable, but it sounds like you have thought things out! So excited for your vacation for you :P

    @ martha - so true. Some people just don't get it.

    @ trystan - Good call! That is definitely one of those things that come in handy once you already have it documented.

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