There is no question that taking periodic vacations and personal time improves employee wellbeing and morale and reduces the chance of work burnout. Research also shows that employee productivity actually improves when a combination of short breaks and regular vacations are built into the work plan.
But what about the immediate impact of vacation anticipation? Depending on the scope of the impending vacation, it can offer multiple distractions and stressors for days, even weeks, in advance. Everything from organizing pet sitters to exchanging currency could be competing for an employee’s time and attention during this pre-vacation period. These personal distractions are piled on top of the need to complete essential work and organize job coverage before heading off on that long awaited holiday.
Instead of getting frustrated with distracted employees, you might want to exercise a little enlightened self-interest by offering them the following resources and tips for reducing pre-vacation stress.
1. Work well with others: Be the person who steps up to help out a colleague in need. Reciprocity makes the workplace go around and you’ll have an easier time getting the support you need at work when it’s your turn to take a break.
2. Keep people informed: Let your co-workers know when and for how long you’ll be away as soon as you’re time-off is booked with your manager. This helps them plan for workload fluctuations and avoids unpleasant surprises. A centralized vacation calendar can be helpful with this.
3. Plan for deliverables: Review project deadlines and deliverables well in advance and identify those that must be completed in advance or reassigned. Discuss necessary changes with everyone involved and with your manager and then confirm the final plan.
4. Be an open book: Provide clear, unambiguous and detailed instructions. Make sure the information people need to cover your job while you’re away is readily available. The last thing you need is a call from a panicked co-worker who can’t find the project proposal that’s only saved on your laptop (which happens to be with you in Costa Rica!)
5. Let technology help: Instead of stretching your lunch break to handle personal errands, use available technology to help. For example, many administrative tasks can be done (or simplified) online after hours when there are fewer demands on your time:
- Get a “to do list” app and start making lists early. List everything: work that needs to be completed before you go; people you need to talk to; what you need to pack; services you need to reschedule or cancel while you’re away, etc.
- Use available lists to help you remember things. For example, you’ll find a number of printable travel lists and packing lists online.
- Use your online banking website to purchase currency for your trip and have it delivered to the closest branch for pickup on the way home from work.
- Instead of struggling to figure out timing across the country and around the world, use tools like World Time Buddy which allows you to view three time zones simultaneously so you can easily schedule your vacation (and the obligatory calls back home) across multiple time zones. It’s also available as a mobile app, so you can take it with you.
- Before you go, update your mobile phone plan online through your service provider’s website.
- Instead of spending hours surfing the internet for Information about the country you plan to visit, check out the CIA World Fact Book. This site provides an overview ranging from the physical geography and political situation to the telecommunications systems and up-to-date security and travel hazard information for most destinations.
6. Avoid over planning: While planning how your work will be covered and deliverables will be completed in your absence is an important to make a longer break less stressful, over planning the vacation itself can increase stress. Remember to leave some space for spontaneity and simple relaxation in your holiday plans.
7. Ask for help: Conscript everyone who is going on vacation with you into the process. Delegate destination research, pre-packing activities (sourcing needed items and gathering things together in one location, ready for packing), administrative tasks, etc. Work as a team to prepare so everyone looks forward to the trip and no one gets overly stressed.
According to recent research, not all vacations are created equal. In fact, findings show the satisfaction and productivity gains generated when employees take time off work only happen if pre-vacation stress and the rigors of travel are kept to a minimum. While a positive, well-planned break from work will make employees less stressed, happier and more productive; a poorly managed vacation will wipe out these positive benefits. Encourage your people to reduce pre-vacation stress with the strategies described above and everyone will reap the full value of their well-deserved vacations.
Let TribeHR’s shared calendar and automated vacation requests help reduce pre-vacation stress for your team. Try it free today!
 Shawn Achor. When a Vacation Reduces Stress and When it Doesn’t. Harvard Business Review. Research conducted by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan. https://hbr.org/2014/02/when-a-vacation-reduces-stress-and-when-it-doesnt/