The 7 Things You Need to Do at Work Before You Leave on Vacation

7 Tips for Success Before Going on Vacation

Let’s be honest. Vacations are the best part about work.

Sure, we all enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, and figuring out a complex problem is its own reward, but really – can it compete with lying on a beach on the Mediterranean somewhere?

I thought not.

But before you head off on your merry way, you’ll want to make sure that things at work don’t explode in your absence. Here’s an easy 7-step guide that can help you head off on vacation without having to worry about what you’re leaving behind.

Give Early Warning

As soon as your vacation details are finalized, let your superiors and subordinates know immediately. Even if the date is a few months in the future, it will give your colleagues time to prepare.

Make a Plan

This is almost always good advice, yes. But vacations are a different beast. No matter what you seem to do, something invariably seems to slip through the cracks. If you don’t want to end up at your destination missing a passport or your medication, start planning early. Put together two checklists – a list of what to pack and do at home and a list of things you need to do at work prior to departure.

Set Your Rules

Do you have a needy client that calls you at all hours, day or night? A boss that has a difficult time respecting work-life balance? A coworker who sends you an email starting with “Sorry, I know you are on vacation but…”?

Good news: You are important to the organization and a valued employee. Bad news: You are important to the organization and a valued employee while on vacation.

It’s important to set expectations with your co-workers and manager before you leave. Have a conversation and set hard rules that list out specific circumstances that you can be contacted. Better yet, let them know that you are completely off the grid. A healthy business is one that can survive without you for a short period of time. It’s important that you take the time to recharge and keep your mind off work. And do not, under any circumstances, allow those rules to be violated. You give an inch, people tend to take a mile.


Even the best and brightest among us have trouble handing off the stuff we’re working on. We feel a sense of ownership to the project and don’t want anybody else messing up our good work. But if you want to truly enjoy yourself on vacation, you have to let that go. Start early and give your colleagues what they need to know to keep things running smoothly in your absence. Ensure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities so nothing is missed. One tip – do a dry run or start handing off duties about a week before you leave for critical projects. That way, you can identify issues before they happen. Prepare a ‘project status’ report that details everything your team may need to know including contact info, where critical documents are located, status of the project, action items and deadlines.

Work Ahead

For that work that can’t be left to others (or you really, really, really don’t want to hand over), it pays to work ahead. Prioritize these critical projects and jump out ahead on them. Take a look at recurring needs and try to anticipate what might pop up while you’re gone. You obviously can’t get everything, but you might be surprised at your powers of prediction.

Wind Down Before Leaving

It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s a good idea to wind down some of your work before you leave. No one is going to appreciate having to handle their workload, and all of a sudden good portion of yours as well. A few days before, start to hand things off in pieces so you can field any questions your coworkers may have. They’ll appreciate the slower ramp up time to get used to the additional workload and to address any problems before you are completely off the grid.

Now, you’re ready to head off on vacation. So spend some time and relax. There’s a reason Melissa Mayer takes a week off every four months, or why Richard Branson takes “inspiration vacations.” Human beings need some time to recharge their batteries. Go, have fun, and come back a better, happier worker.

Do you have other tips for how to effectively hand-off work before you head out on vacation? Share your tips below in the comments.