What To Do The Last Day Of Work Before Taking A Vacation
4 Tips (And A Download!) To Ease Your Anxiety
Recently, I decided to take the first two-week-long vacation of my professional career, and in full transparency, I was terrified.
To be clear, I've taken plenty of vacations before, but I've always strategically taken trips on long weekends or during the holidays where the impact on my team is minimal. There's nothing I hate more than that feeling of doom that sets on the last day of work before vacation, when you start thinking about the work you'll be missing, clients relying on you, or what could go wrong in your absence.
As an individual contributor, leaving was easier. I could literally do all of my work leading up to my days off, putting in long days and even longer nights, and only when I was completely finished could I turn my Slack notifications off and leave for vacation in peace. Of course, this is not healthy behavior for anyone, but I got through it.
As a manager, my work is never "complete." Now, I have even more clients depending on me, a team who relies heavily upon me for decision making and guidance, and company initiatives that are mid-cycle.
At any other company, this scenario probably would have set my anxiety completely over the edge - but not at PowerToFly. I can testify that the process we've developed has made taking a vacation just that - a vacation. For the first time, I left for my trip without the doom cloud following me out the door and I knew my team was adequately prepped for what to do in my absence.
So, how can you implement a vacation process at your organization that actually works? Follow these easy steps, and you'll be enjoying a little R&R at the beach in no time!
1. Make the decision to stay available, or go off the grid, and stick to it.
- It is absolutely crucial to take time off without work distractions, and if you're going off the grid, stick to it. Don't check emails, turn your notifications off, and offer proper escalation pathways for any emerging issues (see below). Many companies have policies in place where at least one week of vacation should be contact-free - that's when the creative magic happens!
2. If you choose to stay available, set clear expectations about your communication method and schedule.
- Decide on a time or cadence for checking in that works best for you. Whether that's one hour every morning, 30 min in the evening, or periodically throughout the day, let your team know when and how it's best to contact you. For example, if you're going out of the country, it may be easier to Slack or WhatsApp as opposed to email or text.
3. Let the team know how to ask for help.
- If a situation does arise that needs to be escalated, be clear with your team about how they should escalate: tell them to be direct, explain the entire situation, and include an ask and when the response is needed. Make it known that there is no need for small talk in these messages, i.e. "I don't want to bother you on your trip, but…". It doesn't hurt to note that logging into different software while away from your desk is a huge pain - if your ask requires a login, don't forget to include a screenshot!
4. Fill out a PTO tracker (Make a copy of ours here!).
- This tracker is your golden ticket to a stress-free vacation and should be shared org-wide. Once filled out in its entirety, everyone has the opportunity to see what's being handled while you are gone, which tasks and projects are assigned to whom, and who to reach out to in case of an escalation.
Want to see it in action? Here's a sample of a great day-before-vacation team email:
Sample Day-Before Vacation Email
Just sending everyone a note, as I am planning to be in Mexico for the next 2 weeks.
Also as we support all of our team members in our work-life balance, I think it is important to share what that means for each one of us. It is OK to take time off and be fully off. It is OK to take time off and work a little to stay on top of your burning priorities. It is OK to sometimes do one and sometimes do the other.
So for that reason, it is very important to set clear expectations with your teammates on what your PTO style is/ or will be this particular time you're going away. To demonstrate this principle, here is what my next 2 weeks off mean:
1) Ask for help, and allow me to triage
Even when I am on PTO, you can always reach me, you're not bugging me. I am extremely good at protecting my time, and making a judgment call whether the issue you're bringing to me needs me to get engaged while I'm away or it can wait. I am good at putting my phone on silent when I need to nap. So don't hesitate to reach out when you need me.
2) How to Ask for Help
For this to be effective don't say things like "Hi are you there?":) that doesn't give me enough intel on whether this can wait or not
Phrase it more like:
"Hi we just heard back from XClient, and their legal department is requesting something that I don't know how to answer" - obviously as much detail you can provide so I can help even without getting on a call is helpful.
3) Don't make me log in to different softwares
Most of the time you will be reaching me on mobile, so don't send me salesforce links - send a screengrab of the relevant info instead. If you need me to send an email to a client, draft it for me, with all the relevant attachments, etc
4) Err on the side of over transparent
That is kind of repeating the first point, but I much rather know about an issue you're dealing with, and have the opportunity to get involved (and perhaps decide I won't), then later hear "I didn't want to bother you while you're on PTO". Transparency and over communication always wins.
5) My schedule
July 1-5 - planning to be more deeply off. I will not be taking internal check-ins/ group calls
July 8-12 planning to take customer-facing and sales-related calls. I might need to prioritize the bigger ones. Not taking internal check-ins/ group calls
6) Escalate the medium, not the message.
Feel free to WhatsApp me or text me for anything pending from me if you don't get a response in slack. This is true any day of the week, and some of you use it more effectively than others. Seriously, leverage the escalation points!! If you're texting me too much I will tell you (no one has texted me too much in the past. :) )
Thats it team, you know where to find me.
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
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