5 Tips on How to Get Your Project Team Back on Track after a Vacation

Linh Tran, Friday 11 September 2015 | Reading time: unknown

Get your project team back on track after a vacation

Photo by Unsplash User Christian Holzinger

Labor Day marks the end of summer. School has started again and most offices are almost back to being fully staffed. Just as parents help their children with the transition to their daily school routine, a project leader can help their team refocus after a vacation. 

Vacation breaks are a great way to recharge and help boost productivity. However, a lot of people experience a feeling of dread the moment they return from their vacation. They wonder how much work has piled up and how many emails are waiting impatiently in their inbox nullifying all the relaxing effects of the vacation within minutes. Most people need a transition period to get back into their working routine with each other. We have 5 tips on how you can make your teams’ first few days after a vacation less terrifying and get them back on track as quickly as possible.

1. Before the vacation

Encourage your team members to not just plan for their vacation, but also for their return. Having a list of tasks that they have to tackle when they come back will help them ease their mind during vacation time knowing they are prepared for their return. You can assist them by giving them the heads up on what you have planned for the near future and which project or task is critical.

That being said, though, your employees will be stressed enough trying to finish their outstanding tasks and maybe even getting some things done in advance, so do not add to their burden by giving them new tasks the week before their vacation. If these tasks are critical and urgent, assign somebody else to it. Remember that while each team member is to a certain degree indispensable that doesn’t mean that nobody else can do at least part of their workload.

2. Give them an extra day off

Many employees immediately return to work the day after they come back from their vacation. Even if they did not cross time zones, they can still suffer from a mini-jetlag, because their vacation routine is very different from their working routine. You often read the advice that you should return on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, but why not giving them Monday off, too? This way they will avoid the dreaded “Monday Blues” and return much more relaxed and can focus on work right away.

3. No meetings on the first day

It’s the first instinct to immediately check in with someone the minute they return to work. A lot of important things have probably piled up and you want to deal with it ASAP. However, on the first day back at work, the first priority is for the team member to work through their inbox and get an overview of what they have missed during their vacation. Meetings will only cause their workload to increase even more and puts them under time pressure. So avoid scheduling any meetings with them on the first day.

4. Organize vacation replacements

As mentioned above, every team member has their own skill and knowledge set which makes them valuable in their own right. However, there will be times that they’re indisposed, either involuntarily (sickness and other unforeseen event) or voluntarily (vacation). It’s important that you have people who can pick up the work where they left off. A clear documentation system where all important information and files are saved will make it easier for the vacation replacement. There should also be a handover meeting between these team members and the project leader. The team member who goes on vacation should also prepare a handover protocol with the most important tasks that need to be completed in the upcoming weeks.

5. Plan a fun get-together and share your goals

After a week or two of doing nothing, it’s hard to get used to the hectic routine of work immediately. A good way to increase your team’s motivation is to organize a social get-together. They can use this to unwind and socialize with each other and share their vacation stories.  You can also use this get-together as a means to share your goals for the rest of the year. Share with your team what you want to achieve in the last quarters and give them an outlook for the next year, too. Take this opportunity to look back on the past months as well and communicate your appreciation for what the team has achieved, but also ask for feedback in return. This will encourage and motivate them to give their best. 

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