One of the biggest threats to productivity in the workplace is stress. Stress limits creativity and problem solving. Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems yet, according to a 2012 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, only 11 percent of corporations have specific stress reduction programs.
If the company you work for does not have the means in place to help you with your stress then you will need to be able to combat stress on your own. There are a variety of stress-coping-methods that can be learned for your day to day stresses, but one of the most effective ways to reduce stress is a well-managed vacation.
A vacation, if done poorly or without planning, can actually increase stress. However, if you take the necessary steps before leaving then your vacation can be exactly what you need in order to come back fully recharged and ready to work effectively. There are three simple steps that are the keys to having a relaxing vacation. These steps are plan, prepare and communicate.
- Plan – Think ahead, a long time ahead. Discuss with your boss what days would be better for you to have off. You do not want to take time off while in the middle of a big project or before a big presentation. Leaving with so much work on the table will make it almost impossible to enjoy your time off. You should also plan your vacation with your boss’s vacation in mind. Some bosses like to have you be gone at the same time as they are while others like to have someone in the office covering for them. Decide with him/her what would work best.
- Prepare – Organize all of your work before you go. Start two weeks before the vacation and make a list of all that will need to be handled in your absence—including issues that may or may not arise. If you have people that report to you, appoint a second-in-command that can take notes in important meetings, handle important phone calls and emails and even answer questions on your behalf. If you are working on a team project be sure to finish your work before leaving. Clean and organize your work space before leaving. This should include emptying your inbox and following up with any unanswered voicemails.
- Communicate – As you prepare to leave in the two weeks before your vacation make sure that those you work with are aware that you will be away. Remind your boss periodically in emails and in person that you will be leaving soon. If people answer to you be sure that they are aware of whom your second-in-command will be. Be sure that your second-in-command is aware of all his/her responsibilities. If you work on a team, let your team know that you will finish all of your work before you go.
During your vacation your only job is to forget your job. Relax and remember that you prepared well for the vacation and that everyone at the office will be okay without you. Leave a way for work to contact you but be vague about when you will be available. This will allow you to not worry about checking your email or voicemail regularly. If you get a call from work, you don’t have to answer; let it go to voicemail. It was most likely someone that forgot that you were on vacation and by the time you call them back they will probably have figured out what to do without you.
After you get back from the vacation it is very important that you don’t jump right back into work. Remember that you were prepared to leave. Take some time to decompress your first day back in the office. Do not schedule important meetings and block off some time and the beginning and end of the day so that you can get yourself organized. The effects of a perfectly relaxing vacation can be ruined if you allow all that you missed to be piled on at once.
Robert Cordray is a freelance writer for noomii.com and an aspiring life coach. After spending over 20 years in the entrepreneurship/business consulting realm he chose to dedicate his life to helping those that feel helpless. If you can’t find him on the beach drinking a margarita while reading a book, you’ll most likely find him with his wife and three kids.