preparing for an absence

getting ready for vacation


whether you’re getting ready for a week long vacation, or a much longer absence like maternity leave or a sabbatical, preparing before you leave is pertinent in making sure you leave everything in a good place. when I first started thinking about how to get both myself and my team ready for my maternity leave, I felt overwhelmed and confused about what to do. I’d taken some vacations before, but none of them over 2 weeks and they were normally over periods of time that included big holidays when work was slow anyways. here are a few things to consider when you’re getting ready to leave:


  • identify your owners

my biggest need when I’m taking off on vacation is usually identifying who on my team can help cover my responsibilities. I normally start this process off by listing out each responsibility and a proposed owner for each. if possible, I also try to clarify how much time each role will require so that their manager can understand the undertaking later on. once I’ve got my prelim list laid out, I sit down with my boss and get his take on everything. if there are other managers involved that need to approve, we also include them.


when you know who’s taking your stuff over and you’ve gotten approval, make sure to schedule time with each “owner” to go over their responsibilities and answer any questions.


  • consider timing

identify any major milestones, meetings, or deadlines that might fall within your vacation. planning for these and maybe even getting things done before you leave, can make a huge difference to the team you left in your place. assess expectations, prepare documentation, and readjust deadlines if needed.


  • give your manager(s) lots of heads up

I try to give my boss a heads up on vacation as soon as I know the dates. giving him lots of time allows him to prepare and also keeps us organized and on track, even when I’m away. when you do give your manager the heads up that you’re taking vacation, make sure to also present her with a draft plan of what help you’ll plan on having while you’re away. it softens the blow and keeps your boss feeling like you’re responsible enough to take vacations regularly.


  • get all of your things in order

organize, organize, organize. the more you organize your tasks and the responsibilities that come with them, the better off you’ll be. documentation is at the forefront of this and is, in my opinion, the biggest thing you can do for your team before stepping away. if you haven’t done so already, take the time to write out step by step instructions on how to do specific tasks. before I went on maternity leave, I created a spreadsheet that listed out the task, owner, and a link to a document and a video on how to do each task. this way, I didn’t worry about people forgetting what I’d told them because they had step by step instructions at the ready.


  • set up an away message

don’t forget to set up your away message! nothing’s worse than skipping an away message and getting 99 frantic calls from a client who can’t reach you. if you need to, identify who on your team people can contact in case of an emergency. make sure to be specific on when you’ll be back and when the person can expect a response so that there aren’t any surprises.


  • give reminders to the team 

as soon as you know when you’ll be out, put it on the calendar your team shares. doing this will help them prepare and will allow everyone to identify where there might be issues with deadlines etc. it’s also a good idea to send out a reminder email to your team the day before you go out so that they remember. when I left on maternity leave, I wrote individual emails for my internal team and for the vendors and clients we work with. that way, no one was left out.


doing the things above not only makes it easier for your team to deal without you, but it also makes for a better vacation and proves that you can take vacation without everything falling apart. time off is important, make it easy to do and painless to deal with.

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