How to tackle 'out of office anxiety' and actually enjoy your annual leave

You’re finally – finally – off work for a bit, and the release is palpable.

You needed this. You’d gone far too long without a proper break, and you’ve got all sorts of fun/relaxing stuff planned.

But wait, what’s that? Why do you feel such an intense itch to reply to Slack messages? Why do you keep furtively checking your email inbox, sneaking a glimpse while you should be enjoying the hotel breakfast?

And why are you so stressed out about all the work piling up and waiting for you on your return that you aren’t actually relaxing at all?

This is out of office anxiety, and it’s super common.

Here’s how to tackle it

Build the foundations before you go

Preparation is key here. Make sure everything’s sorted before you head off on holiday, so you won’t get a panicked message asking where a report is or what’s supposed to be happening with a project.

‘It’s important that you “offload” your workload to your colleagues in a way that is best for them,’ say the team of experts at Wizz Air. ‘Ensure that you ask how your colleagues wish to receive your handover and in what format.

‘This will ensure that they can pick up your workload efficiently and avoid the need to contact you, allowing you to completely switch off.’

Set boundaries – and stick to them

Be super clear about your boundaries when you’re out of office.

Will you be checking emails? Responding? Are you planning to be completely unreachable, or should people expect you to answer their call?

Establish these rules from the get-go, then make sure you actually follow through.

If you reply to one email, you’ll be expected to reply to others and soon the floodgates will open. So if you set an out of office declaring you won’t be checking your inbox until next week, make sure to, well, actually do that.

Make your OOO super detailed

A simple ‘I’m off on holiday, see ya’ won’t cut it.

‘Ensure that your OOO is as detailed as possible,’ say the Wizz Air team. ‘The more detail that you give, the less likely you will be contacted with urgent questions. A detailed OOO will also reduce the workload upon your return.’

So, what do you need to include?

  • The length of time you’re off and your return date
  • Contacts for who people should talk to in your absence
  • Contacts for who people should talk to if it’s an urgent issue
  • Answers to any questions you know people will be asking, eg ‘our usual meeting will be skipped this week but pick up again as usual on Friday the 12th’

Don’t check out early

The Wizz Air team say: ‘It is important that you complete all work before you head out of the office.

‘Tie up any loose ends, ensure that your colleagues (and clients) are aware of any work outstanding and make them aware when you will return to the office.’

Remember that resting is good for you

You need proper rest and relaxation to function. Skip this and you’ll risk burnout, which will mean you’re not able to get anything done – so if you think working 24/7 will make you more productive, you’re wrong.

Recognise the importance of proper rest and let go of any guilt for taking time away. You have every right to de-stress, and it’ll only make you better at your job.

Turn off notifications

Notifications from Slack and your inbox are too much temptation to bear. Make the job of resisting working easier for yourself by just getting rid of alerts. If you don’t see them, you can pretend they don’t exist.

Even better, try temporarily deleting any work-related apps on your phone while you’re on holiday. That way you add an extra layer of effort to check in on your job – giving you another moment to say: ‘wait, I’m on holiday, I shouldn’t be doing this’.

Remember work will be fine without you

As wonderful as we’re sure you are at your job, you are not so essential that your workplace will immediately descend into chaos the moment you board a plane.

‘Above all, remember that there is no catastrophe that can’t be fixed and that your colleagues are on hand for navigate any emergencies,’ say Wizz Air.

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