There’s a reason that Americans are infamous workaholics: a whopping 52% of Americans didn’t use all of their time off in 2017. In fact, forfeited vacation days added up to the equivalent in $62.2 billion in lost benefits!

Taking time off isn’t just good for your mental and physical health, though. It’s actually good for your career.

Many people assume that chaining themselves to their desk means more productivity. Yet time and again, research shows that humans are more productive when they take time off. When you work past your capacity and forgo a much-needed vacation, you lose your ability to perform at your best.

The problem that many people run into, though, is how stressful leaving the office can be. They find their vacation frequently interrupted by emergency work calls, or drown in the amount of work that piled up while they were gone.

You deserve a relaxing, stress-free vacation. The best way to do that is by coming up with an effective Out-Of-Office (OOO) plan. With a bit of forethought and preparation, you can seamlessly take time off with minimal stress and overwhelm.

Get the time off you need with our guide to creating an OOO plan.

Step #1: Give Everyone a Head’s Up

The best way to ensure that your time away goes as smoothly as possible is by giving advanced notice. Avoid the temptation to drag your feet: this will only make taking time off harder. Everyone will appreciate the heads up.

Block out your time off on the group calendar as soon as you get approval from management. This way, it also serves as a reminder for everyone on your team instead of coming out of nowhere.

Step #2: Delegate Your Responsibilities

The last thing you need to come back to after your time off is a backlog of work and potentially upset clients, vendors, or coworkers. Delegate your tasks among your coworkers so that everything works as seamlessly as possible in your absence.

Make a running list of all that you do each day. It can be easy to forget the jobs you do on autopilot, so give yourself a couple of days to make a note of everything that needs to get done as you’re doing it. Once you have a list, you can make sure that the appropriate tasks are delegated out to your coworkers.

Take time in the week before to talk with your coworkers about the responsibilities they will be taking for you. Make sure that they understand what they need to do and be available to answer any questions that they might have.

Make covering for you as easy as possible. Set up reminders for them depending on what needs to be done. Write a post-it, for example, if you need a coworker to do a daily task. You can also make a notification on their Google calendar when they need to do a particular job.

Also read: How Delegation Will Make You a Better Employee

Step #3: Create a Manual

No one can do your job quite like you. The last thing you want during your time away, though, is being constantly bombarded with questions. Create a short, one-page manual on a Google Doc that gives everyone in the office a quick run-down of your tasks and any valuable information.

Write out your duties, passwords, company accounts and any valuable information they might need to reference quickly. This way, anyone in your office can find what they need without bothering you. You can also put your coverage plan on the document so that everyone knows who to contact and delegate to while you’re gone.

Step #4: Clean Up Your Workspace

One of the worst feelings is coming back to chaos after time away. It raises your stress levels before you’ve even had a chance to check your email inbox!

In your rush to get out as quickly as possible, take a few minutes to tidy up your space. Organize your desk, wipe down your screen and keyboard, and file important papers away. Although it may not seem like a big deal when you’re trying to rush out of there, it can make a big difference in how you feel arriving back at work.

Also, check to make sure that you’re not leaving any food behind, either in the break-room fridge or your desk. Your coworkers won’t appreciate the unpleasant odor from forgotten food, and they definitely won’t be happy cleaning up after you.

Also read: Tips for Asking for (and Getting) Time Off From Work

Step #5: Set-up an Away Message

According to research in the Harvard Business Review, an away message is the perfect chance for social connection. Although you won’t want to sound unprofessional (I’m getting drunk at the beach is too much), do let people know why you’re going. Are you celebrating an anniversary or having a baby? Let people know! It will help people feel positively towards you, which will make them more likely to do business with you and deepen your business relationships.

Also, don’t be afraid to customize your away message. Most email systems (such as Google) allow you to draft two different emails: one for internal and one for outside your organization. This will enable you to be more personal with your coworkers and more professional with everyone outside the office.

Your message should include:

  • A leave and return date
  • Reason for absence
  • Alternative contact and resources
  • If you plan on checking your email

Your autoresponder could look something like this:

Hello-

Thank you for your email! I will be out of the office on vacation with my family from 6/10-6/19 and will not have access to my email during that time.

If you have any urgent matters that need to be handled before then, please feel free to contact [coworker name] at [email address] for immediate attention.

I look forward to connecting with you when I get back!

Best,

[Your Name]

An Out of Office for a Better Career

Some time away from the office isn’t an option. Whether you have a work trip, family emergency, or you need time away to recharge your batteries, there will come a time when your office will have to run without you. Make it as stress-free for everyone involved with a good OOO plan.

You AND your coworkers will be grateful!