How to Prep for a Vacation: 8 Things to Do Before Taking Time Off Work

How to Prep for a Vacation: 8 Things to Do Before Taking Time Off Work
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By Jillian Kramer, Glamour

Photo: Sante Forlano

Baby, it's cold outside--and if you're thinking of checking out of work and checking onto a cruise, you're not alone. But before you say sayonara to your nine-to-five, our experts say you've got more to do than prepare your packing list. "The worst thing you can do is leave without any preparation," says Alexandra Levit, career consultant and co-founder of DeVry University's Career Advisory Board. "You're just asking for a stress-filled trip, and for a damaged reputation when your boss thinks you're shirking your responsibilities. You want people to believe that you work hard and deserve the time off, and that you actually care about the outcomes of your work."

Here, according to our experts, are the eight things you must do before you depart to ensure you can take a stress-free sabbatical, and return to coworkers and an employer happy to have you back.

1. Don't mentally check out before you actually leave. In your mind, you may already be floating on the Caribbean Sea--but in reality, you've still got a lot of work to do before you can slather on sunscreen. "If anything, this period requires you to be even more focused than ever," explains Dawn Rasmussen, president of Portland-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, "so you can anticipate every possible question or need in advance and have answers or resources at the ready."

2. Ask everyone who's anyone what they need. You can't anticipate needs your employer hasn't expressed--and you certainly can't meet them when you're not around. So, "proactively ask project stakeholders, co-workers, bosses, or clients in advance if they have any upcoming priorities that might not have been discussed," advises Rasmussen. "Getting ahead of the proverbial eight-ball is key, and you might avoid a huge misunderstanding that could affect outcomes."

3. Beat any upcoming deadlines. If you'll need to step off a plane and behind a platform for a big presentation, it's best to prepare before you leave--or you might leave yourself scrambling when you return. "It's smart to think through projects to make sure no deadlines will be due while you are gone or immediately upon your return," Rasmussen says. "It is important to try and manage those deadlines so that all expectations are met."

4. Appoint someone your point-person. Your work BFF isn't just good for office gossip. She--or someone else you trust--can take the helm on your work while you're away. "Coordinate someone who can cover in your absence," advises Rasmussen, "and include his or her information in your out-of-office reply emails and voicemail messages."

5. Prioritize the work you'll leave behind. Just because you have a point-person doesn't mean he or she will know where to start with what you've left behind. So "make a list of the top priorities for each of the projects or accounts you are working on and provide it to your co-workers," says Rasmussen. "This will help them be up to speed in case they need to respond quickly to a request."

6. Make it easy on your coworkers. Your coworkers may not need a tour of your office--but they might benefit from a tour of your files and resources. "Acquaint the person covering your work with all the usual resources and how they can rapidly find answers," suggests Rasmussen. "If you are sunning yourself on Maui, you don't want your phone blowing up with calls from the office asking where the Johnson file is located." You can also earn yourself bonus points with your coworkers and boss, Rasmussen says, by creating a FAQ sheet that will "answer basic questions about what your work covers, including how to check on project status."

7. Meet with your boss. Fact: Bosses like to be in the loop, not left in the dark. So rather than reassuring your higher-up that you've covered all your bases, show him or her how you have, Rasmussen suggests. "Set up a meeting with your boss to go over key things they should know, because don't like to look foolish and uniformed," she explains. "Just approach it as, 'FYI boss, here are some things you should know before I head out.'"

8. Put on your out-of-office auto reply. The last thing you should do before you leave, Levit says, is set a message that lets everyone who reaches out by phone or email that you're away from your desk. This way, she says, "you aren't compelled to respond to work emails in a timely manner." And setting such a message let's others know when they can expect a reply.

What do you do to get ready to take time off work?

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