Create Your Vacation Coverage Plan for the Holidays

Last verified Nov 10, 2022

We’re quickly approaching the holiday season! Aside from spending time thinking about get-togethers and gifts, there are plenty of people who are prepping to step away from work to celebrate. 

The holidays and PTO go hand in hand. Everyone deserves to spend their time celebrating in their own unique way, and they also deserve to fully enjoy their time off and not worry about coverage while they’re out.

Woman accidentally dropping a roast out of the oven
Devote that energy to thinking about potential holiday dinner mishaps 

We know that there’s always going to be a little stress that comes along with the fun of the holidays, but we’d rather have that stress come from joke gifts that didn’t quite “hit” rather than work. Fortunately, there’s something simple you can do to cut down on the confusion and make this time of year a little more merry for everyone at your job. 

Why everyone needs an out-of-office coverage plan for the holidays

Writing a coverage plan might seem pointless if you haven’t done it before. After all, everyone on your team already works closely together. Are they really going to need a few reminders to keep things going while you’re out? 

Whether you’re taking a day to yourself or enjoying a week+ holiday getaway, a coverage plan is the way to go. Here’s why we’re always going to advocate putting in the time to create a simple OOO plan. 

Cut down on confusion

Keeping track of ongoing work and deadlines gets much more difficult when you have people out on PTO. Creating a simple holiday coverage plan can help cut down on a lot of confusion. Once managers and employees have clear insight into people’s schedules, planning for work becomes a lot easier. People won’t have to guess when their co-workers will be in or if they need to adjust their expectations on a deadline. 

Keep up the good work 

Some things tend to slow down during the holiday season, but it’s rare for things to grind to a complete halt. The holidays can be the perfect time to close things out, re-evaluate strategies, and think about what to tackle once everyone is back on a regular schedule. 

Guru Collage Image-Library-2

It can be hard to do any kind of work when you’re not sure of what’s in flight and what people are prioritizing at the moment. A thorough holiday coverage plan can keep people informed and help them make decisions even when you’re away. 

Avoid problems 

There’s nothing like coming back from a relaxing holiday with friends and family to angry emails from your boss about what lapsed when you were gone. If you want to ensure everyone avoids an unpleasant holiday surprise, outline a comprehensive plan before you step out for the holiday. 

A lot of stress and miscommunication can come down to not having a plan in place for when you’re out. Let your plan speak for you when you can’t be at work. When you have a plan that clearly outlines who to go to for what, when you’ll be back, and major priorities to remember, it becomes much more difficult for things to fall by the wayside. 

Create your own holiday coverage plan

There are already enough last-minute tasks that need to be done around the holidays. Save that stress for last-minute grocery store runs and gift shopping and start making your coverage plan today!

Don’t think you need to create a long-winded multi-page plan that carefully outlines a minute-by-minute summary of what needs to be done. In fact, we’ll make things even easier for you. We have a handy-dandy OOO coverage plan template for you to use! 

Now that you have the perfect template to use for your OOO plan, let’s focus on how to fill it up. Here’s what you need to do to create a comprehensive holiday coverage plan. 

Think about the big picture 

Maybe your holiday break is coming right after you’ve spent the past month heads down on a big project. Or perhaps you’re working on so much it’s hard to pinpoint what matters the most. Regardless of what your current schedule looks like, keeping track of everything you’re responsible for can be tricky. 

Now is the perfect time to take a step back and think about all of your work responsibilities. Think about how many projects you’re actively working on, projects you’ll need to be focused on once you come back, and any important upcoming deadlines. Once you have your true scope of work outlined in front of you, creating an OOO coverage plan gets a lot easier. 

Outline coverage needs

Now that you have a clear idea of your work responsibilities, it’s time to start prioritizing. What work absolutely needs to be done while you’re out, what would be a nice to have, and what can wait until you’re back? Are there some tasks that only you can handle, or can you delegate them to someone else? 

rory gilmore talking about delegation

 It’s always a good idea to talk to project leads and other people you work closely with when you’re thinking about coverage needs. They can give you helpful insight into upcoming projects or deadlines you may not be aware of and could even let you know if they need more (or less) help than what you’ve scoped out. Let them know when you’re going to be out and see if they have anything to add to your plan. 

Be specific 

Your manager is out for their holiday PTO, but you have a question about a project you’re working on. When you check their OOO plan, you see this:

“I’m OOO mid-December. Talk to Maria and Debbie if you need anything related to Project X and Project Y!” 

Your company has about 6 different Marias, and 3 of them are in your department. How do you know if you’re talking to the right person? Also, Maria and Debbie are pretty much the textbook definition of cross-functional employees and have a wide range of responsibilities. How do you know if you’re contacting them about the right thing? 

This would have been much more helpful:

“I’m OOO from 12/12-12/18. Talk to Maria Montalvo for anything related to engineering or design for Project X. Debbie is available for any marketing questions for Project Y.” 

That last example clearly outlines who to reach out to and for what, and it's short, sweet, and to the point (more on that in a minute). When you clearly outline who to go to and for what, you leave much less room for guessing 

Focus on what people need to know

Guru Collage Image-Library-48

OOO plans aren’t the best time to flex your creative writing skills. Don’t overload people with unnecessary information, and do your best to focus on the basic information people will need to understand your plan and take action while you’re away. If your OOO plan has these things, you’ve likely touched on everything important: 

  • Due dates for deliverables, meetings, and other noteworthy activities

  • Links to relevant documents and tasks in your Asana/Teams/work app of choice

  • Any directions or nuanced details that will be needed to complete work

  • Background information on projects or clients for people stepping in to help with OOO coverage

  • Contact information for true emergencies

Review with management 

Managers should be involved in your OOO plans from the start to ensure you cover all of your bases. They can give you important insight into project work, mission-critical tasks, and other important factors that can affect your plan. Let them know that you’re planning on making a OOO plan for the holidays and that you’d like their input before you finalize it. 

When you’re getting that final input from your boss, don’t just focus on whether or not you covered everything. Ask them if they felt like they understood the plan or if anything felt confusing. If your manager can’t clearly identify what needs to be done and who needs to do it in your plan, it’s time to make some adjustments. 

Spread the word 

go ahead and tell everybody
We will!

As we said, things get hectic around the holidays. Don’t count on your manager or other team members to let people know about your time off. Make sure that you let project leads, team members, and other key people know when you’ll be out and where they can find your OOO coverage plan. 

This is also a great time to encourage others to create OOO plans of their own. The more transparency your workplace has around PTO plans, the easier it’ll be for everyone to find ways to work around people’s schedules. We all deserve some time to enjoy the holidays and decompress after a long year. Give your workplace the gift of transparency this holiday season so everyone can have the worry-free PTO they deserve.