Team Productivity

4 Things Every Project Manager Should Do Before Leaving for Vacation

Bella Woo
May 16, 2019
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The weather’s getting warmer, and you likely have vacation plans to look forward to as we enter the summer holidays.

As a project manager, you’re an integral part of the team—but progress can’t stall while you’re out of the office. That's why it's important to prepare your team and projects before you leave for vacation.

Pre-vacation checklist for project managers

Here are 4 simple tips to help you keep your projects moving forward as smoothly as possible with minimal emergency calls or emails to interrupt your time off.

1. Update your schedule

Make sure your project plan and schedules are up-to-date. Look over these documents for any milestones, deliverables, or tasks that are due while you’re scheduled to be out of the office.

It’s also a good idea to let your clients, team members, and project sponsors know you’re going away as soon as your plans are firm. Remember, it’s summertime for everyone else too, but business doesn’t stop. You want to make sure other key players on the project won’t have scheduling conflicts. The earlier you share your plans, the easier it will be for others to make theirs.

2. Set project expectations

Hold a meeting with every team member or in small groups based on responsibilities. Check that all team members with deliverables due understand what’s expected of them and the deadline. Explain the implications of missing the deadline.

Take a look at the downstream items that are set to occur after you return from vacation. If the people responsible for those items aren’t equipped with the right information or tools, make sure that changes as soon as possible.

The best-case scenario for any project is that it moves ahead of schedule. That possibility still exists even when you’re on vacation. You want to ensure individuals with downstream items are able to keep things moving along if this happens.

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3. Conduct a project handover

Select one point person to hand your project over to. This person can be someone else on the project team or a fellow project manager who can keep folks on track while you’re away. Here’s how it works:

  • Provide your point person with your most up-to-date documentation.
  • Walk them through all the major milestones and deliverables.
  • Explain what these items should look like if they’re not familiar with the project.
  • Provide them with the major stakeholder names and an alternative contact (such as the account manager or project sponsor) should a crisis occur.

If you’re working on multiple projects with vastly different teams, it might make sense to select multiple people to assign coverage to. If this is the case, I find it helpful to also designate one additional person who has a list of coverage contacts for all projects. This person can act as a traffic manager just in case communications are misdirected or random inquiries come through.

4. Customize your out-of-office message

Don’t forget to set up your email client’s autoresponder! With all the preparation that goes into leaving for vacation, it can be easy to forget the most basic things.

I learned this the hard way a few years ago. I was so frantically trying to get everything done and leave the office on time that I completely blanked out. When I remembered, I had already embarked on my journey without my work computer. In a hurry to make my flight, I put the wrong return date in my message.

So while this sounds like a no-brainer, I’m going to repeat the best practices of setting up an out-of-office message in hopes that no one will commit the same faux pas I did.

  1. Be specific about the dates you’ll be away.
  2. Set expectations by stating your accessibility during this time.
  3. Include a point of contact for urgent requests. This person should be the same as the “traffic manager” I described above, if you have one.
  4. Change your voicemail. I know this sounds onerous, but it’s an additional safeguard so nothing gets dropped.
  5. Set a reminder to change your out-of-office messages on the first day you’re back. Many email clients include a feature to specify when the out-of-office message should be shown, so you can often take care of this as you’re setting things up. If it doesn’t, make a note of it, along with a note to revert your voicemail greeting back to normal.

Keep everyone up-to-date without missing a step

Want to ensure your team and stakeholders stay in the loop all year-round? TeamGantt makes it easy to set a clear project plan, track progress, and collaborate on work so there’s no question where a project is and what’s coming up.

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