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5 Things To Do Before Taking Annual Leave, (so you can actually relax)

By Phil Norton

May 12 2019 - I was surprised to read recently that 40% of employees in the UK aren't using their full, paid holiday entitlement. Not only that, many of us don't find holidays relaxing, as we are still checking and responding to emails. Taking relaxing holidays is not our super-hero skill, but with some astute advance planning it can be.

1. Prioritize holiday

If you don't prioritize holiday, it'll often lose out to work commitments. Why give all that vacation time back to your employer when it's intended for your rest and relaxation? I am in awe of people who manage to use their leave allowance each year, without breaking sweat. What is their secret? It's long range planning. I have observed some of the most successful holiday takers to be parents. In one company, there was a cohort of them who submitted their entire holiday plan on January 2nd each year. That's unusual I know but you get my point. You don't have to go that far. Hard book some holiday well in advance and soft book others. Ring fencing your holiday allowance will protect it from work pressures and ensure you use most if not all of it.

2. Give clients and colleagues at least a month of notice

There is nothing like that feeling of liberation that you get when you leave the office for a vacation, knowing that all your loose ends are tied up. A last-minute panic and flurry of activity is unlikely to achieve this desirable holiday Zen state, but long term planning will.

A month in advance of your vacation, let your clients and colleagues know that you will be going on holiday soon. This gives concerned parties the chance to address things with you well before you leave, even giving you time to resolve the issues before going away. Even add it to your email signature.

Do it again, one or two weeks before leaving, so clients and colleagues know not to plan work or meetings with you, until you return. This is about the time to begin handing over work to colleagues, copying them in on relevant emails, and having them shadow you in meetings. Prioritization is of paramount importance here. Don't overload your colleagues, as you don't want to use up their goodwill. Only off-load tasks that can't wait until you return.

In the last couple of weeks, call your clients and inform them of who is looking after their account while you are way. Some form of introduction may be necessary if the new contact is not known to the client. Email introductions work, but can be a little impersonal, so a video/telephone -conference call might be the best medium for this.

3. Effective work hand-over

Prioritizing and actually committing to taking holidays is only half the battle, because many of us are sadly taking work on holiday and checking emails. We are not handing over effectively. The result is, as you would imagine, counter-productive. Many of us are finding that we can't completely relax on holiday, which defeats the object of going in the first place.

It can be tempting to hold on to projects you feel close to when you go on leave, but it's these niggling projects that will cause you stress on holiday. If you want to have a relaxing holiday, you'll need to delegate these tasks before you go. Provide your deputy or no 2 with a list of your ongoing assignments and instructions on how to handle them in your absence. Where possible, empower them to make their own decisions and judgements to prevent projects stalling needlessly. Present this as a growth and development opportunity for your No 2, turning it into a win-win situation. You get a proper break and they boost their CV. If you don't have a deputy, establish a reciprocal arrangement with a colleague.

4.Set up an effective auto-reply to free you from your in-box

The out-of-office auto-reply tool is a simple, but powerful tool for managers to use during their holiday. Used well, these tools can help you to enjoy your holiday and break free from your e-mail in-box. It's worth putting some thought into the message too. Along with your dates of absence, there are several other items you can add, for example:

  • Indicating that you are actually 'taking holiday', (as opposed to just out of office), provides certainty around your lack of availability. It's like putting a 'do not disturb' sign on your hotel room door and means people will be more likely to respect your need for a break.
  • If you want to be slightly stronger about your need to be incommunicado, include a line like, 'I won't be checking my work-phone or email...'
  • Always try to include a contact that interested parties can go to for urgent queries too, for reasons of business and service continuity. You don't want clients to feel abandoned.
  • An assurance that their query is important to you and that you will respond promptly on your return, (and making sure you do.)
  • If you have automated calendar technology or a PA, give people the opportunity to book a call or meeting with you on your return.
5. Give yourself a secret extra day for post-holiday recovery

Knowing that you have to crash-land into work on the first day back to an inbox of expectant emails and phone calls undermines your holiday piece of mind. You can create a post holiday buffer day or two by agreeing some home-working days with your boss/team straight after your holiday so you can clear your inbox and issues list without distraction. Or just indicate that you are returning a day later than you actually come back to work.

Holidays are crucial to maintaining our health and well-being, but modern workers need to be very protective of them to ensure they enjoy their full allowance. If you can effectively plan holidays, you won't be worrying about work, (or more importantly doing it), on holiday, which is the point. This will give you great piece of mind, meaning you can fully enjoy your well-earned break.

If you are looking for a Leave Management System, why not try Leave Dates. It is free for small teams and being able to see everyone's availability in one place will really help with your planning. Leave Dates removes the manual effort from managing leave and absence, and works on laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Try it today.



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