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How to avoid business drama and unplug from the office while on vacation

15th of December

The idea that a great professional is only great and successful if they “are always online” and “never take time off” is one of the greatest failings of the modern age – and almost always one of the over-riding factors which cause us to have heart attacks, digestion issues and a whole plethora of stress-induced ailments. We have lost the ability to switch off and unwind. 

But how do you stop thinking about work (and checking in) when you have worked so hard to get to where you are? How do you learn to let go and enjoy a well-deserved break without constantly worrying about what’s happening at the office or sneaking off to reply to emails and work texts?

Most importantly of all – how do you avoid business drama while you’re on vacation and make sure that there isn’t any drama awaiting you when you return to the office? 

Let’s find out. 

A good vacation starts a few weeks before your vacation – it starts with planning and preparation.
You need to prepare your workload, your clients and your team well in advance if you want to ensure that your holiday is drama free. 

Before you leave

Time your vacation for minimal stress

The first thing you should do to avoid stress on your holiday is to make sure you take your holiday at a time when you anticipate minimal action at the workplace. If you have a quiet time of year that’s a good time to take leave. If you don’t generally have a “quiet period” at least try not to take time off when you anticipate particularly high activity levels. 

Give ample notice

It’s important to give your colleagues, employees, and clients ample notice before you take leave. This lets them prepare themselves and bring things to your attention which you may not yet be aware of. Not only do you need to let them know well in advance, but you need to remind them regularly that you will be away when you will be away, how long you will be away and how much access they will have to you in that time. Send emails and speak to people in person.  It’s also a good idea to prompt people if you know that they might need something from you and have forgotten to ask for it. 

Plan your workload

As soon as you book your leave you need to start planning your workload. At what point do you need to stop taking in new tasks? How long (realistically) do you need to finish everything on your plate before you leave? Is there anything that can wait for your return? What can you delegate to others?

Notify your main customers and or suppliers 

If you regularly have direct contact with your clients and they expect to be able to get hold of you when they need to then you should let them know that you will be unavailable and who they can contact in your absence should they need assistance. 

Set up your chain of command

If you’ve been training up your team then this is a good opportunity to let them try their skills. Make sure that everyone knows exactly who is responsible for what while you are away and trust them to do what you need them to do. Let one person know how to get hold of you during a real emergency.

Assign tasks and customers 

As well as the workload which you’ve delegated, you should assign customers and clients to specific people and make sure both parties know who they will be working with. Introduce people who will need to communicate with each other in your absence (digitally if needs be). 

Create a light work manual 

Set up a light document with any important “need to know” information which may be needed in your absence. This should point people towards resources and information that they may otherwise bother you for. It also ensures that they are prepared for anything. 

Create an out of office reply

This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but a well worded out of office message can save you from being bothered while you’re away and prevent you from having huge loads of mail to deal with when you return. Rather than promise to reply to all emails on your return, let people know when you will be back and ask them to get hold of you again then. You should also point them towards someone else they can contact in your absence should they need urgent assistance.

While you’re on holiday

Plan your check-ins, then unplug

If you know that you won’t be able to let go and completely forget about work while you’re away then you should plan (In advance) specific one-hour slots once a week when you will be checking mail and messages. Don’t open every single Email – just scan through the list for anything marked “Emergency” or “911”. Don’t start replying to emails unless you want to kiss the rest of your holiday goodbye – instead, have your one delegated person to reply to. This will be whoever you left in charge when you left.

Use a different email for travel plans

If you need to get into emails to check flight details and travel bookings then you need to use a personal email for all of these – not your work email. You will be less likely to get sucked into work drama if you don’t see the emails every time you check a ticket reference number or booking reference. 

Go analog 

Give your important contact people back home and at work the number for your hotel, and then leave all of your devices locked in your room and go out and enjoy yourself. If there is a real emergency people can call reception and leave you a message. 

Recognize the benefits of doing nothing

You don’t have to feel guilty about turning off the laptop, kicking your feet up and doing nothing. In fact, it’s essential to your future productivity. You can’t be productive if you’re exhausted. What’s more – many of our best ideas come to us when our minds are allowed to wander rather than being constantly busy. 

Connect with family, environment, self 

Remember that you are working so that you can have a life outside of work. Take the
Time to connect with the important people in your life – including yourself. 

When you return 

Take a day or two at home to acclimatize before you go back

Don’t try to go straight back to work the moment you arrive back in your hometown. You want to set up your leave so that you have a day or two at home to get back into a routine and also to see to any personal admin. 

Expect to spend a day tending to emails

The chances are you will spend your first day back just responding to email and catching up with events that took place while you were away. Don’t expect to do anything too productive in your first day or two back. You need them to play catch up. 

Lastly, set up catch up meetings to avoid being bombarded with information in dribs and drabs. Instead, book time with specific people to address specific projects when you return. 

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