Make the summer (or any) vacation worth the money your company pays for it!


Time is money. Paid time off is money, too.  

  • It is the money your company pays you to leave work behind, and relax, rejuvenate. 
  • It is investment in your mental and physical health to maintain performance. The company pays you to take time off work, recharge your batteries. 
  • It is also the money you receive to be responsibly recharge to be able to maintain and build your performance. 

So if you, as an employee, work during your vacation it is wasting your money, your time, you are entitled to and need and also, in a way, negligently wasting the money of your company it pays you to do a job - in this case: to relax to able to perform at work sustainably. 

And if you, as a leader, expect, support, tolerate working during paid time off, you are, in a way, handling people, and the resources they bring to work negligently, as you do not care if they have enough time to regain their energy and preserve their mental and physical health. You are creating or supporting an exploiting working culture.

How about looking at vacation from this angle and stopping seeing time off as a reward, or as a lack of dedication to work, and stopping rewarding those who are "committed" enough to not leaving their work and team behind, even on vacation.  

So how to make the best of any vacations? It is a shared responsibility of the leader and the employees

As a leader:

1. Be clear and communicate about the importance of paid time off. Make it part of the working culture. The better people feel about taking time off, the more likely they are to come back to work revived and ready to give back the company that acknowlegdes and understands their needs and rigths. 

2. Make everyone block off their calendar as soon as their paid leave is approved.

3. Handle (summer) holiday planning as a re-occurring project for your team (including yourself). If you establish the right workflow, collaboration framework, you can use the protocols repeatedly. 

  • Start the work in time, so when the time comes, everything is in place. 

  • Contract as a team for the purpose of the project: to give everyone their undisturbed time off with possibly no connection with the workplace. 

  • Make the team work together on it and bring in individual responsibility, too.

  • Agree and contract as a team on what it means if someone is undisturbed on their holiday or other paid time off? How does it show? What is the norm you want to establish– e.g. computer off, or handed over, phone off or handed over etc.

  • Plan with the team what you need to do to achieve this goal: create individual and team action plans and protocols - organize work so the employee does not have to do overtime beforehand to be able to get away for a week or two, or come back to a Mount Everest of work  and emails, and have to work overtime for a month to make up for the work missed. 

The show must go on in the absence of the employee as well. E.g. substitution, handing over before going on leave etc. If you cannot organize work, fulfil the tasks in the absence of a team member, you have bigger problems - you have to review the whole team's operation because something does not work well.

4. Respect boundaries - leave your team members alone during their vacation. Do not send e-mails, messages, they will              have to read or might read. Send them (or a summary) when they're back or even better: discuss all the updates that is necessary. Text only when it is emergency – also agree on what emergency entails.

5. Before the actual vacation, schedule a check-in meeting with the employees for their first day back, preferably in the morning.

6. On their first day back: welcome back your employees – ask them about their vacation before you actually start discussing work. Show interest, that you care about them as a person, and they are not just robots for you.

7. Be the example. Make it part of the culture.

As an employee:
  1. Block off your calendar as soon as your vacation, paid leave is approved.
  2. One or two weeks before leaving, check your goals and priorities for the time you are off, and make sure you can hand over most of the tasks to be solved. Make a list. Prioritize. Discuss it witth your leader. Do not leave everything for the time you are back. (Preferably nothing.) Make sure, you do not have to do anything during your vacations and do not have to do overtime before or after your holiday.
  3. Plan ahead: who can cover you during your time away? Arrange taking over, covering for you. Decide what tasks need the whole team's contribution and which ones are to be handed over to individual(s)? How will they interact?
  4. Schedule the hand-over planning process one or two weeks before the holiday.
  5. Arrange a go-to person while you are away.
  6. Create hand-over notes / documentation for those taking over if necessary, and schedule meetings to discuss and plan.
  7. During vacation: disconnect your e-mail, phone, other channels used for communicating at work. Best to Leave your laptop and work phone at home, if you can. Do whatever switches you off. 
  8. Set an out of office message for your computer, phone and other channels.
  9. Communicate all the important details to your colleagues, teams, stakeholders you work together with, your clients, customers.
  10. Before you go on vacation, schedule a check-in meeting with your leader and team members on your first day back, preferably in the morning.
  11. Plan one or two extra days at home after coming home from vacation. This way you will have time to ease back to regular days and get your mind and body ready to go back to work smoothly.

And some other benefits of teaming up for holiday planning and do it together as a team:

1. Enhances team collaboration. 

2. Team members support each other, can rely on each other - creates trust and stability. 

3. Enhances the sense if security in team members. 

4. The team's performance will stay stable - clients, customers, stakeholders will have positive experience and the reputation of the team will be positive and suseccful. 

5. The opportunity to have real time off will prevent burnout, overburden, will support mental and physical health. 

6. People will experience positive culture and atmosphere, will have positive feelings, will be more energized which will foster performance and motivation.