Tips For Taking a Stress-Free Vacation

Plan Well Now At Work, Rest Easy While Gone

Posted Jul 10, 2012

Employees often think in great detail about their vacation plans — but not enough about how to minimize boss-related stresses and office disruptions while away. Planning ahead at work will be well worth the effort when it’s time to check out.

You’ve made yourself indispensible to your boss, and consequently, taking a vacation could catapult his neediness into the stratosphere. Of course, you could drop a few hints first: drive to work towing a jet ski; block your cube with a super-sized Samsonite; or wear full-on scuba gear to the morning staff meeting. But there are much more career-favorable steps that can pave the way for a stress-free vacation.

Managers have a right to feel that your projects are well under control while you’re out of sight. But if your boss is chronically "vacation-vexed," then these timely tips will help you enjoy your prized time off — while mitigating a Terrible Office Tyrant’s (TOT’s) separation anxiety.

Take Steps to Maximize Your Peace of Mind

1) Be low-key: Don’t "state" your vacation time; ask. Send an e-mail well in advance with exact proposed dates, e.g., “I’d like to take the first week of September as vacation time, including [dates]. Will you let me know if this can be approved?”

While that seems simple enough, some employees just announce their vacations without any thought as to whether it may present a conflict for the boss or company, and/or with little notice. Certainly there are events and commitments where we have little control, but where there's flexibility, avoid a “vacation declaration.” Mitigating resentment at the start will go a long way in making your time off more seamless and pleasant overall.

2) Timing Matters: Just as timing plays a role when getting project approvals, so does getting the nod on vacation, especially if your boss is not exactly the company's Vacation Ambassador (are there any such managers employed today?) Don’t ask for your time off just because a window finally opened during a hectic day; right before lunch; or at the end of a long day, for example — as tempting as the opportunity seems. For optimal results, wait for a serene vibe.

3) Delegate: Vacation time is a true litmus test of your ability to delegate — a skill that can always be developed further as you rise up the corporate ladder. It challenges your own confidence level, as well as the trust you can place in others: a key leadership trait. Your primary “go to” person should know how to access your mail and key documents, and act in your stead. (At the same time, do make sure that you haven't inadvertently left any personal documents in the office.)

If your tasks are complicated with many moving parts, consider creating a spreadsheet for your manager and team with projects, responsibilities, deliverables and deadlines so that everyone is on the same page.

4) Cover your bases: Make sure you’ve coordinated the vacations of those on your team; have adequately trained them to manage anticipated tasks and scenarios; and ensure that confidential office documents will stay that way while you’re gone. Leave up-to-the-minute, detailed instructions and status reports for your boss and team before you leave.

5) Set the ground rules: Ask your boss and peers about the unspoken "vacation communications code of conduct" around the time you're departing, especially if your suitcases have been gathering dust. Better to gather information than be in the dark. Then set reasonable boundaries that feel comfortable. For example, you can suggest that you check your e-mail periodically and leave contact information, but be contacted by phone for emergencies only. Remember, too, that the more you adhere to your own consistent rules of contact, the more relaxed your leisure time will be.

6) Give a Countdown: Provide a monthly and/or weekly countdown reminder to your boss as you approach your departure date — depending on how far out your vacation is — as well as a day or two before you leave. (Find out more about communicating with a challenging boss and managing up.)

If you're haphazard in preparation, your vacation could morph into a chaotic work experience from just another desk, perhaps with a really nice view. But if you plan ahead carefully, then you might well return with a whole new view from your own desk.