Julie Tucker
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Workplace organisation: How to plan for holiday leave

Every employee is entitled to holiday leave and most Brits will opt to take a break during the summer months.

It’s so important to take your workplace holiday entitlement, no matter how busy you are. We all need a chance to recharge our batteries and with the British summer failing to deliver much sunshine, you might be feeling the need to get away. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to take seven to 14 days’ holiday all at once, so you can return to work feeling truly energised.

To get the most out of your holiday, it’s important to implement some workplace organisation beforehand. This way, you can feel reassured your work commitments are covered in your absence. Leaving the office in a relaxed frame of mind means you don’t have to worry while you’re away.

Why is a holiday from work important?

Taking annual leave is crucial for relieving stress and reducing the risk of burn out, according to global healthcare company BUPA.

Data from the World Health Organisation reveals people who work 55 hours a week or more are at 35% higher risk of suffering a stroke and 17% higher risk of heart disease than those who work 35 hours a week.

BUPA concludes that taking a break is essential to help employees to survive. It is integral not only to our personal wellbeing, but also to boosting productivity and performance on returning to work afterwards.

What are the UK holiday rights in the workplace?

Workers in the UK have a legal right to take 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year. This is known as annual leave, or statutory leave entitlement. This includes employees on zero-hour contracts and workers with irregular hours.

Employers have the option of including bank holidays as part of employees’ statutory annual leave. Full-time employees who work five days a week are entitled to a minimum of 28 days paid annual leave – equating to 5.6 weeks holiday.

It is a legal right that employees receive holiday pay, as UK employers are governed by legislation that states they must provide paid annual leave.

Workplace organisation

Organisation in the workplace is the key to taking a holiday without coming back to a mess.

If it’s another colleague who’s planning a break, working together and supporting the team helps ensure everyone goes on leave in a positive frame of mind. This also helps to improve employee productivity following a relaxing break.

If you’re a manager, you should encourage staff to take their full annual leave, but you must also practice what you preach and lead by example!

Good workplace organisation means every member of staff should be able to take a holiday, with the business continuing to run like clockwork, no matter who’s away.

Just how should you prepare for your absence at work? This doesn’t have to be a headache if you plan everything carefully.


First, make a list of your priority tasks: this means everything that needs to be done while you’re on leave. You should plan ahead for the duration of your holiday, whether it’s three days or two weeks.

This may seem challenging, but it’s a question of deciding how urgent each task is, taking into account short-term and long-term goals. Leave plans in place for those tasks that need to be done in your absence and decide which can wait until you return to the office.

Communicate the priority action plan to team members before you go on holiday so that everyone’s on the same page. This will reduce stress for everyone – yourself included.

Communicate with colleagues

It may seem obvious, but communication is the key to taking time off. Talk to your colleagues in person, send emails containing important information and update any collaborative project files before you leave.

Flag anything important, not only from the current files, but also to anticipate important pending work. This can help prevent misunderstandings and will note any potential issues.

If one person is covering for you, make sure they have all the required information to continue the tasks. Liaising with colleagues improves collaboration within a team all the time but it’s even more important before holiday leave.

Automated response emails

Neglecting to put an automated response on emails is a common mistake. Automated response emails help anyone who has tried to contact you understand why you haven’t replied. They also inform business contacts when you will return and who they should contact in your absence. Callers can then decide if they can await your return with a non-urgent query, or whether they need to contact someone else in the company.

Create a professional message that is quite brief but contains all the necessary information.

Update working documents

Before your break, update all important documents such as records of meetings, activity reports, databases, spreadsheets and any other information that colleagues are likely to need.

Delegate a responsible person to keep the documents up to date while you’re away. Updating them yourself, before you hand them over, will cause less stress for colleagues.

When you return, you’ll only need to check through the various reports to catch up with anything you’ve missed while on holiday, ensuring workflow isn’t interrupted.

Working with other team members

Ensure a smooth handover to your colleagues. This is essential to keep everyone up to speed and satisfied they know what they must do in your absence.

The handover meeting should organise cover for current projects, other works in progress and any essential tasks that need completing while you’re away. Share the contact details of your clients with colleagues to make it easier for everyone.

Finally, organise a post-holiday follow-up meeting, so your team members can fill you in with what has been happening in your absence.

Should you tell you clients?

This rather depends on your business and if your absence makes a difference to your clients. If this is the case then once you have a timeframe in place, you should let clients know. Doing so one month in advance is typically sufficient. Once you’ve informed them by email, it’s useful to send a reminder nearer the time.

For example, when you send an email about another business matter, wrap it up by adding a note at the bottom saying something like: “Just as a reminder, I will be out of the office from (leaving date) until (return date) and will be unavailable during that period.”

Add that if there’s anything requiring your urgent attention prior to this, to contact you right away. Then conclude by saying: “While I’m away, please send your questions to…” and add the name and contact information of the colleague covering your duties.

All of these tasks will make things easier for colleagues in your absence and yourself once you return to work.

Common mistakes

There are a number of common mistakes workers make when preparing for a holiday. The most inefficient is leaving it too late to put proper workplace organisation in place.

This can have multiple effects. You might end up having to work all your lunchbreaks and very late the night before your holiday to complete everything in advance, leaving you tired, and having an impact not only on the quality of the work you’ve done, but also your enjoyment of your holiday, as you’ll worry about things you may not have completed.

It will also affect your colleagues, who may feel stressed because they don’t have the information needed to complete their own and your tasks during your absence. That’s only going to end one way!

Secondly, you must create healthy boundaries. It’s not possible to enjoy a break from work if you’re continually checking your phone and work email. This isn’t a holiday – it’s working remotely!

Avoid this by setting the expectation to your team and clients that you will be totally unavailable during this period. Don’t tell workmates they can “contact you if it’s important” because everyone will have a different version of what’s important and your phone may never stop.

It’s equally necessary to turn your work phone off during your trip so you won’t be tempted to answer, should someone contact you. This is the only way you’ll feel the true benefits of your time away.

Planning a holiday when coworking

Working from a coworking space can make it easier to organise a holiday. The culture of coworking has redefined the way everyone from independent professionals to start-ups approach their job and life.

Working from a flexible office space, instead of the traditional 9-5 set-up, means you can improve your work/life balance in general and plan annual leave when it’s convenient.

Missing out on a holiday due to work demands should never be an option. Three-quarters of UK employees have felt “stressed and frustrated” in the workplace, according to data from You Gov based on a poll of more than 2,000 people. Everyone needs a break.

The fact that coworking permits you to choose when, where and how you work means you can break free from having to book annual leave at someone else’s convenience. Being in a flexible workspace means you can have more choice over when you book your holidays. If you need to put in a couple of longer days beforehand to complete tasks, it isn’t a problem.

Planning for holiday leave can become a whole lot easier when you’re surrounded by a community of like-minded people who can also march to the beat of their own drum.


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