Why you really need to take your paid vacation

There’s a lot of reports available which show that nearly half of all working Americans do not take their alloted paid vacation days a year. In 2019, over 44 million, had 7+ days remaining at the end of the year (Source: Businesswire). In Europe, it’s common for people to be out several weeks over summer and to be completely unreachable and this is considered the norm. In France, there is a common stereotype that everyone is off in August. There is “Black Saturday” where thousands of drivers from Benelux take to the ‘Route de Soleil’ in France to go on holiday. In the UK, many families would combine their holiday with the bank holiday weekend to try and maximise their holiday days.

Why is taking vacation important?

Simply put, having time off enables you to recharge yourself so that you can come back to work fresher, revitalised and with lower stress levels. I have seen a real difference to team and individual motivation for those who took a chunk of time off as opposed to those who did not.

The consequences of not taking time off:

If you’re working continually, you are putting yourself at risk for stress related illnesses, heart attacks, mental illness. There’s also the mistakes/errors that you may make from being tired.

What you can do to ensure that you’re fully prepared for your well earned leave.

I’m a strong believer in full preparation for my vacation will ensure that everyone has everything they need and ultimately, I will not be missed! (That’s the goal!). Timing is everything but sometimes it is unavoidable to clash with something, so you need to prepare as best you can. I have written down a few key tips that ensure that my vacation is as relaxing as possible.

My tips for success

  • Plan your time off strategically.
    • Try to avoid busy periods of the year or times when you know it’ll be more difficult to take time off (e.g. year end, month closing etc.). Within projects, this is all about avoiding key project deliverables as much as possible
  • Have a back up clearly identified
    • Make sure that there is someone available in case anything might need your attention and ensure that they’re well prepared (I find a good handover email fantastic for this as everything is written down and they can refer back to it).
  • Broadcast your upcoming vacation
    • I have a note on the end of my signature which indicates any upcoming leave in the next quarter so with every email, people are able to see if I’ve got any time planned off. I borrowed this from a colleague and it was a passive reminder of their unavailability
  • Handover effectively
    • I write specific emails per “project owner” detailing:
      • The current status
      • Any potential issues that may come up and how to resolve them
      • What I may need their support on (e.g. approving timesheets)
    • I will group all of these together for my boss and send one single email to him so that he’s aware, knows what is going on and is not surprised by anything.
  • Communicate effectively:
    • In the week before I leave for my holiday, I remind people of the following:
      • Next week I’ll be away and unavailable. Your contact person is: XXX if there are any issues.
      • I will be back on XXX date.
    • Make sure that your Out of Office is clear about:
      • Your absence
      • When you’ll be back
      • Any backups /contact person’s
      • Friendly reminder that the email will not be read until you return 😉

Depending on the project/engagement/timeline, I may give one person in the team my private number and if something seriously cannot wait, they can call me on that and I’ll answer. You need to be restrictive to who you give this number to as it should really be a last resort. Then, once the last follow up is done: turn off your PC, phone and enjoy some of the peace and quiet!

Conclusion:

I hope that from this blog post, you can take some advice to give you the best opportunity to have the most stress free start to your summer holiday this year.

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