Taking a leave from work is hard
I am on leave for four months, the longest break I have ever taken from work.
As I was taking this leave, I worried about things falling through the cracks and wanted to set my team up for success in my absence. With my supportive manager’s help, great reports willing to step up, and amazing peers who shared their tips, I could better prepare for the team to operate in my absence.
Are you planning to take a leave? If so, here’s what you can do:
- Give advance notice when possible:
Notify your manager ahead of time, depending on the length of your leave. For example, if you are taking a day off, unless you are responsible for something time-sensitive like being on-call, you don’t need to plan too far ahead. On the other hand, if you are taking a week off, it is prudent to tell your manager earlier so they and the team can plan for it. You would be required to give a more extended notice per company policy for anything longer than a month.
2. Create a ‘leave plan’ and test-drive it:
Write a detailed coverage plan when you are out, including who is replacing you as the DRI for projects, who is running your meetings, who will support your reports, and who is the POC for your management chain. For longer leaves, test-drive your plan. For example, one week before you go on leave, see what falls apart if people follow your ‘leave plan’ as outlined. Pushing yourself to get a lot done before your leave is strictly less useful than actually focusing on building a great ‘leave plan.’
3. Try not to meddle while on leave:
It sets a wrong precedent if you swoop in during your leave. Your team feels undermined, and at the same time, you can’t be there to respond to everything that is going on. It isn’t good for you or the team. One thing that a peer did that was wonderful was write a guide to his reports on how to make decisions in his absence. Instead of trying to control the decisions, which isn’t possible without having day-to-day context, sharing the things that matter to you and your decision-making framework can be more helpful.
4. Accept and overcome feelings of guilt:
It is common to feel guilty if you take time for yourself. However, it’s necessary to prioritize yourself and your family. Work with your manager to make the leave possible, and a good company would prefer to have you refreshed and back at work vs. have you burn out and quit. It is common to feel guilt while checking up on work during your leave (I’m not going to lie, I still check in from time to time:|). Instead of trying to achieve some ideal version of a break, strive to have the work-life blend that works for you.
In the regular course of business, if it’s painful for you to step away, see whether you are missing people on the team that can take your job. As a leader, creating sustainable teams and removing yourself as a single point of failure is essential.