We all need it. We all crave it. We all deserve it (well, most of us anyway).
Time away from our jobs and offices, much like us, comes in many shapes and sizes. Some prefer the occasional day off. Some prefer to take a week or two at a time and really disconnect from the office. However you do it, you need to think about it in advance to make the most of it. How often do you really get a chance to disconnect and get way?
Being away can be tough for leaders. We never really know what is going to happen in our absence. We worry about what pieces we will have to pick up when we return. There are always deadlines & projects to be worried over. And then there are the emergencies to be dealt with.
A bit of preparation can make it infinitely easier to enjoy your vacation.
Without You – First things first. You may need to change your mindset. The office can indeed function without you for a week or two. You are not essential to the operation of your office for short periods of time. You probably have some very good people who are talented and attentive and able to step up. If indeed the office is organized in such a way that work absolutely cannot proceed without you, you have a different (far worse) problem than going on vacation. Stop reading this and get help.
Ground Rules – Whoever you go on vacation with has valid expectations that you will spend quality time with them. Get straight up front how much time and when you will be checking in on the office. If you are going to totally disconnect, and you tell them that, you had better mean it. I suggest being realistic, set an expectation that you will spend no more than 15 minutes a day after the kids go to bed or in the early morning and that you won’t spend time on conference calls.
Staff Expectations – What should your staff expect of you when you are out? I always tell my folks to call me if one of my direct reports resigns or someone dies. Otherwise, whoever I leave in charge can deal with it. Oh, and make sure you leave someone in charge of the office to make decisions for you. It is a great opportunity to develop subordinates. Make sure you delegate responsibility for meetings & briefings. Give people an opportunity to step up in your absence!
Out Of Office Notifications – This is a simple one that people miss all the time. Set your email so that it responds to people when you are out. I prefer to use “*** AUTOMATED RESPONSE ***” in red as the first line in the out of office response. Tell them when you will return, who to contact in your absence and what level of response they can expect. Do the same for your voicemail. Do the same for your financial system so others can approve purchase orders & timecards.
Coming Back – If possible, allow time to catch up BEFORE you return to the office. Maybe it is a evening after you return home. Maybe even another vacation day where you can spend an hour or two in email and status reports. Chances are there will be a line outside your office the day you come back, so try to spend some time catching up first.
Follow these tips, and I bet you find that everyone enjoys your vacation more!
Barry Condrey is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
I do the following with my smartphone which receives work e-mail regularly. Before leaving work I create a new folder called Vacation. I then setup an Exchange rule that sends all incoming e-mails (as it is received) to the ‘Vacation’ folder. This prevents every new work e-mail from automatically being synched and popping up. If I do want to look at my work e-mails while on vacation I have to intentionally synch the ‘Vacation’ folder then they will be downloaded. I have found this trick works well to eliminate the distractions and evil glares from family members while on vacation.
Late at night if I want to see what’s going on (I rarely do) I can intentionally synch the ‘Vacation’ folder and see if anything critical needs a response.
Love the idea of a vacation folder. I’m going to do that when I go on vaca in August. Thanks!