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3 tips for returning to the office after annual leave

By:  Ian Smith, Finance Director and General Manager, Invu

As travel restrictions ease, many of us are thinking about dusting off our passports and looking forward to booking a break – perhaps enjoying some winter sun. As we know all too well, work doesn’t stop whilst we’re away, and it’s now even harder to ‘unplug’ with many of us having work email apps on our mobile phones.

Whilst there is no way to completely reduce the number of emails and work you’ll return to, there are some simple systems and processes you can put in place to make your return to the office much easier.

  1. Reduce the number of emails you need to go through with automation

Setting an ‘Out of Office’ explaining when you’ll be back and who to contact while you’re off can reduce some of the emails you receive. However, this doesn’t completely stop the influx of emails that you still need to go through when you get back, leaving you spending your time sorting through the hundreds of junk emails to find the few important ones.

The process doesn’t just involve reading through all your emails either. You need to then spend time following up on the important ones, chasing updates from colleagues to ensure they had both seen the email and actioned it.

To combat this, some of us will check our emails while we’re off, to both clear up the junk and ensure our colleagues have kept on top of everything by forwarding them important emails. However, this is no good if we want to completely switch off, and there is a lot to be said for allowing yourself the ‘headspace’ to not think about work.

One solution to this is automating your emails and storing them in a document management system with workflows. This prevents your inbox from becoming an information silo while you are away.

Once in the document management system, the right staff have access to the right information at the right time. Documents that require further action can be placed in a workflow so team members can see them progressing and who has the next action.

  1. Delegate supplier invoice approval to another colleague

If you have the responsibility of approving supplier invoices in your business you will understand the pain of coming back to work and finding that you have a long list of invoices to approve immediately or else key suppliers would be paid late.

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This is stressful, time-consuming, and doesn’t give a good impression to suppliers if they aren’t being paid on time simply because you had booked time off.

However, you can easily delegate invoice approval to other colleagues during the time you’re off if you’re using an automated accounts payable system. With some of these systems, you can easily change who has authority so that invoices will be automatically routed to this new person or group of approvers.

These systems should also provide visibility of the status of each invoice in the process and audit trails, so if needed, you can easily see who worked on those invoices while you’ve been away.

  1. Automate document processing to make keeping track of work easier

So, you’ve delegated jobs to other members of the team to ensure continuity while you’re away. As you settle back and reach for that first relaxing drink, you’re suddenly hit by a pang of worry that you’ve missed something important and it won’t get seen by your colleagues until your return.

You can say goodbye to these nauseating thoughts by automating your document workflows. If a task is always completed in the same way, you can automate the processing of documents, using documents saved into your document management system.

The workflow ensures the document is sent to the right person, or group of people in your organisation and creates an audit trail showing who did the work when. This makes it easy to see the list of tasks they have been allocated, and other members of the team can see the status of the document to respond to queries about its progress or help advance the task to completion.

Reminder notifications can be set up to send to colleagues to make sure they don’t overlook a task, and they can tick off the tasks when they are complete to move the document along in the process.

This means you can have peace of mind whilst you’re on leave, and with the audit trail, you can also figure out what jobs need to take priority on your first few days back.

These are three simple steps to prevent the dread of coming back to work after a break, and they can be easily achieved by making changes to your systems and processes. Modern businesses need to have effective processes that can easily accommodate employee absences. If this capability isn’t present then there are a host of efficiencies that can be made by introducing a document management system with workflows.

Improvements in processes and systems should help improve visibility, efficiency and control in your organisation in the long term, and not just when you’re on vacation.

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