How To Avoid Working During Your Vacation

Robin Schwartz

How To Avoid Working During Your Vacation

If you’re fortunate enough to have an employer who provides paid time off, it’s important you take advantage of such a benefit. It’s no secret that American employers tend to lag behind many countries in the world when it comes to paid leave benefits. Furthermore, many Americans often fail to really take time off work. They’re often still available via email or they check messages in an effort to stay on top of workloads. So, how do you ensure your time out of the office remains work free?

Put Up an Out of Office

It might seem like an obvious recommendation but employees need to ensure they’re informing co-workers, colleagues and outside clients that they aren’t available. Make sure you indicate the date ranges (even if it’s just one day) and provide a backup contact. It may be helpful to clarify you do not have email access in order to prevent the assumption that while you may be out, you’re still keeping an eye on email. Utilizing your out of office feature also ensures you don’t come back to numerous follow up requests from the same person.

Don’t just use the email out of office function. If your work phone has the functionality to permit temporary away messages, be sure to record one. Not everyone gets in touch via email in today’s work environments. Don’t leave colleagues or clients believing you’re just not responding to them. If your work phone forwards calls to your cell phone, turn the feature off while you’re out!

Pre Plan

Planning before you go out is what will prevent employers from feeling the need to verify information with you or ask questions while you’re out. Visualize any projects that you have due dates on and create emails or documents discussing where projects are. Make sure you talk to your team members and designate someone who can serve as a backup while you’re out in the event information is urgently needed.

If you have a work manual or a set of SOPs (standard operating procedures), make sure they’re up to date. Consider leaving a list of any pertinent passwords with your supervisor or designated backup in the event information needs to be accessed.

Train Your Backup

Once you’ve designated a backup while you’re out, take the time to train and instruct him or her. Show your backup where any necessary documents might be saved and provide detailed instructions to them. Make sure you clearly list items that are pending while you’re out so your backup knows how to keep things going while you’re gone.

Don’t forget to provide your backup with a list of essential contacts! Don’t make them wonder who to speak to while you’re out. If it’s possible, give your backup an emergency contact number but specify what constitutes an emergency!

Talk to Your Supervisor

Once your supervisor has approved time off requests, make sure he or she is reminded of them. Don’t let upcoming time off be a surprise. Find out what method your supervisor prefers. Perhaps he wants you to send a calendar invite for your time off so it’s a visual reminder. Some supervisors might prefer to be reminded during regular one-on-one meetings.

If you’re taking significant leave, be sure to meet with your supervisor a few weeks in advance to determine what concerns he or she might have while you’re out. Discuss your designated backup with your supervisor and confirm he or she has access to any necessary information while you’re gone.

Plan For Your Return

Don’t spend your vacation stressing out about the work you have to come back to. If you’ve planned before you left and designated a backup, you shouldn’t come back to fires that need to be extinguished.

Take a look at your post vacation calendar and workload before you leave the office. Since most people are dealing with a full email inbox when returning to the office, make sure you’ve prepared any documents, reports or meeting materials you’ll be using in your first few days back. Even if you have to make minor edits to prepared materials, it will be far less stressful than feeling like you have dozens of urgent emails to attend to while trying to maintain your current calendar.

If it’s at all possible, give yourself an extra day to serve as a buffer. Oftentimes, travel delays or unexpected issues occur. Don’t stress yourself out by neglecting to provide yourself flexibility if you encounter issues towards the end of your time off.


An effective employee is one who can balance work and life. If you’re taking time away from the office, unplug yourself fully. Don’t check email – better yet, temporarily remove email apps from your phone. Don’t forward your work phone to your cell phone either.

If you come back to the office feeling recharged, you’ll be better situated to face new challenges head on. You’ve done all the pre-planning necessary to enjoy some rest and relaxation, so take it!

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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