With Memorial Day weekend just days away, known as the unofficial start to summer, it’s time to make sure you enjoy some much-deserved time away from the office. In fact, the recent Glassdoor Q1 2014 Employment Confidence Survey reports that 61% of employees admit working, at least some, while actually on vacation. I think because most of us wouldn’t today define peeking at our emails on our phone, while no one is looking, as really working, that this percentage is probably much higher. Let’s face it, the same phone that we are lying on the beach taking pictures and posting on Facebook and Instagram, has us just one thumb swipe away from our email inbox. It’s the age we live in – disconnecting is tough for both the employee and our employers. And if we are honest with ourselves, that pull to just skim and browse is one of the strongest addictive pulls that we have. But, we want to vacation as best we can and still be responsible for those back in the office. So, what can we do? Consider these five suggestions to enjoy your vacation, especially when you really want (and need) to be doing so:
1. Develop a Realistic Plan. Don’t be the person who says that they are starting a diet on Super Bowl weekend. Unless you are staying home by yourself and not watching football, that date to start a diet is just not realistic. The same could be said for many employees about planning to not check in with the office at all while you are on vacation. The longer you are planning to be gone from the office and the time of year that you are going to be gone will demand that you be realistic about what you can do guilt free. If you are going to be on vacation longer than the norm, then you’re probably going to have a plan to check in at least once. The key is agreeing when and to whom you will be checking in with, so that not only you know, but everyone else does as well. If you have said that it will be with the Admin that covers your department, then you have a better chance of someone else checking with that person to leave you a message before they try calling you. So, decide what you’re going to do that is realistic and then stick to it.
2. Be Predictable & Consistent. If you have the agreement that you’re going to check emails or voicemail early in the morning before anyone gets in the office, and will do that every day, or on Tuesday and Thursday of the week, then follow through on that schedule. Any deviation from the schedule will only invite others to reach out to you (we know this happens as the survey reveals that nearly 25% say that it happens to them on their vacation) on their schedule, not yours. Consistency and predictability is your best offense and defense.
3. Play the Time Zone or Offline Hours Game. Send emails when everyone is working and you will end up engaged in a conversation versus the turn-based approach that you desire. So, let people know that you will be checking at times when they probably won’t be watching. And, then be sure and let them know when you will be checking again. This gives you the time to step away without guilt or expectations that you will respond immediately. The other game you can play to be sure that you don’t get into a conversation is to connect your email, and once everything is in your inbox, disconnect and work offline. Once you are done, then connect back online and sync up. Then, turn your tablet off and lock it in the hotel room safe.
4. Don’t Even be Startin’ Somethin’. Vacation time is not the time to be starting something new, unless you want to be pulled away from vacation. Avoid asking questions, introducing new ideas, or making assignments of new work or duties. Let this wait. The work and the agreements that you made before you left should be about keeping the status quo, maintaining and no surprises. Anything new, including emails or phone calls, should not be done while on vacation, so don’t even think about it until you get back.
5. If There is a Fire, Go Ahead & Put It Out. Inevitably, there comes a fire while you’re on vacation in which if you don’t douse it ASAP, it will burn all the way to your boss. That’s not good for anyone and one raging fire that gets out of control will worry you sick and ruin the rest of your vacation. It’s better to bite the bullet, let everyone know that you are breaking your own agreements, and to make the rest of the time better for everyone. But, once the fire is out, don’t keep going back. Smother it and get back to the kids and enjoying yourself poolside.
You’ve earned the time away, so keep in mind that this time is precious. Once you have it, don’t waste it. Our brains and bodies need to do other things than always work. We have loved ones who lose us to work for enough hours already that the time we are giving to ourselves and to them should be considered a gift – one that should not be taken for granted or wasted. So, go on vacation and then be on vacation!