Whitney Danhauer

Spin Sucks Question: Tips for Returning to Work After Vacation

By: Whitney Danhauer | May 31, 2019 | 
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vacationMy kiddo finished up seventh grade last Friday and if you think the summer slows down for the parents of a middle schooler…I have some news.

Evie’s entire summer is booked with camps, sports practices, and youth groups, but there are two sweet weeks of relief in those 12 that I am desperately looking forward to—vacation.

Not so long ago, vacations weren’t the least bit relaxing to me.

I felt pressured to check my email, and take care of anything that came up.

It wasn’t really a vacation.

Thankfully, I’ve come to realize nobody has time for that type of “vacation”.

And if you read Laura Petrolino’s post last week, you’d understand why vacations are great for you and your organization.

That’s why in this week’s #SpinSucksQuestion, I decided to turn to our lovely Spin Sucks community to see what tricks they had in their magic hats to make conquering those back-to-work to-dos more manageable:

As we head into the summer holidays, and people are going away on vacations, what tips do you have to deal with the barrage of emails and to dos that greet you when you get back—without raising your stress levels to pre-vacation levels?

Give me all your tips and tricks!

The Vacation Pre-Planners

All of us have to plan for our leave, but there are lots of different strategies on how to do that.

Iva Grigorova meets with her team to make sure all the bases are covered while she’s gone:

I have handover meetings with my team, direct manager before I leave for vacation. When I come back, I have a debrief meeting with the team and then go through important emails.

Chris Williams sends a notice to his clients several days ahead of time:

Since I have responsibility for several customers, I send a notice to each one three or four days before the vacation to notify them I’ll be away, and to contact another team member if they need anything.

After that, I have our Support team activate a special Out Of Office filter we made, that ports most of the non-internal emails into an email subfolder.

Still takes a few hours to sort through it all, but at least this way customers aren’t left hanging, and I can see high-priority items quickly.

The No Matter What Email Checkers

I used to be a part of this group.

And it did not work for me.

But I do understand how it works for others.

There’s something to be said about being aware of any issues that might pop up and taking care of little things—if it truly doesn’t stress you out.

While Betsy Cooper might check emails while away, she also uses what she calls a “vacation handover”:

We do a few things…whomever is going on vacation provides a “Vacation Handover” document to the team to let them know what’s happening, any flags, etc., so that they can be covered.  HOWEVER, I also check emails when I’m away. Not nearly as much, but unless there is absolutely no way to get emails, I will review them—once in the morning, and once in the afternoon/evening. Anything that needs to be dealt with gets passed along to another team member, or I deal with it quickly. Anything that doesn’t, just waits politely in my inbox until I get back. Honestly, I find this to be the best way for me to not have a freak out when I get back…keeping an eye on things and just doing enough to make sure nothing is going off track.

Joseph Thornley is also someone who checks his emails while on vacation:

I continue to look at my emails on vacation—and I respond. The minute it takes to acknowledge a client and then to explain who I’m delegating a request to and why, lets them know that I’m always there for them. And it really causes me no great distress. Ultimately, I want clients to be with me for the long term. And I’ve found that always being responsive is something they truly appreciate.

The Out of Office Lifesaver

I love a good Out of Office.

There’s something immensely thrilling about turning that sucker on before you leave for vacation, when you know the place isn’t going to burn to the ground without you.

Bonus points if you make it a fun Out of Office, with a riddle or trivia question.

Deirdre Lopian is a fan as well:

An Out of Office notice will inform colleagues the dates you will be unavailable allowing them time for your response, instead of repeatedly checking in for an answer. You should also include a contact person, in case those trying to reach you have urgent business they need to transact immediately.

And Carol Titus uses Out of Office combined with a few other tricks:

I have noticed more coworkers posting their vacation dates on their e-mail sign-off a week or 10-days before vacation. During vacation, an Out of Office message includes who to contact in the interim. helps, but it is not perfect. For the return, I start a post-vacation list the week before, and place reminders on my calendar.

Back to Reality

As sad as it may be, vacations don’t last forever and eventually we all have to return to our regularly scheduled programs.

Don’t let the return to work put a damper on the last part of your vacation.

Using a combination of methods that work for you might mean a little more work up front.

But the pay off will be worth it when you’re not drowning in clutter and looming deadlines when you return.

What do you do for your return to work after vacation? The comments are yours!

About Whitney Danhauer


Whitney is living in Central Kentucky with her husband, Michael and her daughter, Evie Rose. She's an avid reader, an even more avid movie watcher, and loves nothing more than a well-placed pop culture reference. By day she writes about all things communications for Spin Sucks, by night she writes about whatever she wants. Her first novel, Good Riddance, was released in October of 2015.