It’s finally summer! The sun is out and you’re miles away from the office with a drink in your hand.

Ping! What’s that? It’s your coworkers messaging you because the most important project of the year is about to launch while you’re on vacation and they need something ASAP.

Sound familiar? It probably does to your team. About 63% of Americans will take six or more vacation days this summer, according to our 2018 Summer Productivity Report. However, 34% say they plan to work or be available during their time off. Additionally, 32% of people who work on vacation say it’s because they “enjoy vacation better” if they know things are running smoothly at work. And not even half of respondents say they’re ready to return to work once vacation is over.


Have a second? Download the full report here


Every employee needs time off the grid. Studies show overwork leads to health problems like insomnia and depression. In turn, these issues impact workers’ ability to focus, innovate, and perform.

So how do you prevent employee burnout and ensure your team gets the time off they so desperately need, while not missing a beat with relentless work needs?

The secret is in the planning. Preparing your team for a relaxing, disconnected vacation will help folks return to work with a fresh mindset (and a great tan!). Instead of feeling the pressure to “check in” for work when they should be “checked out” on vacation, let’s explore other ways your team can remain unplugged and un-bugged while on vacation.

1. Appoint a Go-To

As soon as a team member requests PTO, appoint another team member to act as their backup while they’re away. Announce the game plan to the team and clients ahead of time so they’re kept in the loop.

“This person should be able to hold down the fort for you while you’re gone—and you can do the same when he or she takes a vacation,” Mary Hladio, workplace expert and President of Ember Carriers Leadership group told Forbes. “Your second-in-command should take notes for you at important meetings, handle urgent calls or emails if you cannot be reached, and make decisions or answer questions on your behalf.”

Appointing a go-to keeps work on track while project owners are away. It also provides a smooth transition for vacationing team members and gives them the confidence to enjoy their well-deserved time off! 

2. Communicate Constantly

Announcing upcoming PTO to the team well in advance is always a good idea, but be prepared for it go in one ear and out the other. Consistently remind your team they’ll be down a head, especially when discussing upcoming deadlines and workload. This will help with planning and distributing upcoming projects and tasks.

Don’t have time to juggle PTO reminders? Afraid scheduled time might slip through the cracks? Build a vacation calendar that allows you to assign and log vacation approvals. Review this calendar during weekly team meetings, and make sure it’s easily accessible to the entire group.

3. Ensure Visibility Into Your Team’s Work

Unwelcome pings start where team visibility ends. Out of office team members will be interrupted if others can’t find what they need and know their vacationing colleague holds the key.

Adopt a reliable work management solution to serve as a single source of truth for all project-related information. Integrations with other tools your team uses, like Gmail and Slack, help to further centralize key information. Features like easily navigable folder structures and robust search functionality ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

Having a single source of truth for the entire team also makes it easy for vacationing team members to ensure project details are up-to-date and accurate before they set their away message. Those left behind will have everything they need upfront—no last-minute pings required.

Stop getting bothered on vacation. Add your projects to Wrike!

4. Make Sure They Tie Up Loose Ends

Although you’ve appointed other people to cover in their absence, have vacationing team members complete as much work as possible before they sail off into the sunset. Any unanswered emails, pending approvals, or open action items in their queue should be closed out or marked with a clear status.

Most work management solutions make it easy to see which tasks have been completed or are still in progress. Leverage custom workflow statuses like “In Review” or “Waiting for Others” to clearly annotate project stages and track tasks at a high level. This makes it easy for vacationers to pick up where they left off when they return and jumpstart team collaboration. It also helps appointed go-tos better manage any next steps.

5. Plan For Their Return

Don’t make returning to work harder than it needs to be. Give post-PTO workers plenty of time to catch up, and try not to schedule any tight deadlines immediately following their return. Instruct go tos to handle any urgent requests that come up during vacationers’ first day or two back in the office.

Have traveling team members put together a brief overview of items that will need their immediate attention after vacation. This strategy not only gives them a clear direction when they return, but also helps them focus on rest and relaxation instead of keeping mental to-do lists while they’re on vacation.

6. Lead By Example

Practice what you preach: If you pack your laptop on vacation, expect your team to do the same. According to our survey, 45% of millennials agree to working on vacation if their boss does.

If you’re worried about the volcano of emails erupting in your inbox while you’re away, follow in the footsteps of Foundry Group’s managing director, Brad Feld. He sets an away message to tell recipients exactly what will happen to their message while he’s off the grid:

I will not be reading this email. When I return, I’m archiving everything and starting with an empty inbox.

If this is urgent and needs to be dealt with by someone before 12/8, please send it to my assistant Mary ([email protected]). She’ll make sure it gets to the right person.

If you want me to see it, please send it again after 12/8.

Sound too complicated? Maybe it’s time for you to break up with email altogether.

Wind Up to Wind Down

Vacation shouldn’t be stressful for your team. Everyone needs (and deserves!) R&R. With sufficient resource calculation and the right tools, your team members will enjoy their vacations to the fullest and return to work refreshed and ready to go:

  • Appoint a go-to to keep projects moving forward, take meeting notes, answer questions, and more on vacationers’ behalf.
  • Create a real-time PTO calendar and review it frequently with your team to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Establish a single source of truth for all project-related information to give team members visibility into each others’ work.
  • Ensure vacationing team members tie up as many loose ends as possible prior to their departure, and mark unfinished projects with clear workflow statuses.
  • Help vacationers plan for their return in the days leading up to their PTO, and give them a day or two to readjust.
  • Lead by example and leave your laptop at home when vacationing. Your employees will follow suit.

For more insight and information on employees’ vacation habits and what managers can do to ensure their team members enjoy time off, download our free survey report.