How to Make Your First Day Back at Work Productive After a Vacation or Leave of Absence

by Joanna Pineda Posted on February 22, 2018

I used to dread my first day back in the office after vacation. After being away for a week or two (or more when I had my sons), I did not look forward to coming back and being buried in emails and getting caught by surprise by someone who needed my urgent attention.

But not anymore. Not since Matrix Group started creating “while you were out” documents for anyone out of the office for more than a couple of days.

Here’s how we do it:

The update is ready the day before the person comes back from vacation or leave. An email goes out, telling the vacationer to “read this update first.”

What do we cover in the “while you were out” document?

Why go to all this effort?

It takes a whole team to write these documents, but they are so worth the time and effort.

What do you do to make the transition back to work easier on your team members? 

5 replies on “How to Make Your First Day Back at Work Productive After a Vacation or Leave of Absence”

I LOVE our while you were out documents! It was a godsend when I was on maternity leave. It enabled me to check in periodically so I could stay connected to what was going on, without getting sucked into email for hours on end. Every org needs to do this!

This is wonderful! I love how you’re creating an environment that makes it OK to be out – and to come back. Another tactic I’ve heard is allowing people to delete all their unread emails when they return. So they start with Inbox 0 and ease back in. This would go well with the “while you were out” document because then people won’t really miss anything by not reading emails. (I can think of other issues, but you know what? We used to function without email.) It’s all part of the culture.

Having worked for a long time in several organizations I was surprised that no other place had this “while you were out” practice that Matrix Group did. This in my experience is a very unique practice at Matrix Group. I welcomed it and was struck by the efficiency that this process brings to the workplace. It definitely eases the dread of being back and having to comb through emails so as to not “miss out ” on any critical things that have to be addressed. I highly recommend it to any Department/Team within an organization.

I like this idea but wonder about people really taking the time to complete the document. How do you make sure that happens?

Hi Cari. We make sure that the document is filled out by assigning someone to be in charge for the person who is away. For example, if Rajani is out, I make sure the doc is populated. If Dave is out, Rajani is the person in charge. We sometimes need to nudge people, and some of us are more skilled than others are filling out the doc. The docs are never perfect, but something is better than nothing!

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