Vacation Tips

Question:

I’ve scheduled vacation but cases are pending, clients want status updates and senior partners are waiting for my reports. It feels like the work never ends. Can I really afford to get away?

Answer:

Absolutely. Not only should you go on vacation, but you need to. It’s a matter of good mental health. When you don’t take a long break, you run the risk of burning out. You also need to reset your work-life balance by reconnecting with family and friends. Many companies are wising up to the importance of relaxation. Some have instituted use-it-or-lose-it policies around paid time off, while a few others entice employees with vacation cash.

On the other hand, managers have responsibilities that can’t simply be put on hold for a week or two. To truly enjoy a guilt-free getaway, you have to prepare. Here are eight tips to use before, during and after your summer vacation.

1. Work ahead. Do as much as you can before you leave for a long break. This doesn’t mean pulling an all-nighter before your scheduled flight, though. Whenever possible, put in an extra hour of work each day in the few weeks before your vacation. The effort will be worth it when you’re able to get away with nothing hanging over your head.

2. Time it right. Don’t leave during your office’s busy season, or you’ll be unfairly burdening your staff and colleagues. For example, if you work in a tax practice, schedule your vacation for well before or soon after the fiscal year ends.

3. Assign backups. Unless you’re a solo practitioner, there are others who can pick up the slack when you’re away. Several weeks before you begin your vacation, ask staff and colleagues to serve as points of contact. It’s a good idea to divide the work and assign each person an area of responsibility so no one will be overburdened while you’re gone.

4. Give advance notice. You may have given your backups the dates of your vacation, but make sure other colleagues and relevant clients know as well. A quick email will do the job. Mention your summer break again during a staff meeting so everyone on your team is aware of when you’ll be gone and who will be doing what during your absence.

5. Set out-of-office messages.
Even if you plan on checking in during your vacation, you should still configure your email to send an automated reply with your return date and the contact info of your backup colleagues. Do the same with voicemail. That way no one will be left wondering why you haven’t responded to their messages within a few hours.

6. Go off the grid. Not everyone can or should do this, such as if you have important cases pending or are in the middle of negotiations. But if you can truly unplug from work, force your own hand by going somewhere with no internet or cell coverage.

7. Give yourself permission to check in. For some managers, it’s actually more stressful to disconnect from the office than not. If this is you, don’t feel bad. A recent Accountemps survey of office workers found that 56 percent of respondents check in at least once a week during their vacation. Just make sure to carve out specific times, such as an hour every other morning, and protect the rest of your day from work.

8. Ease back into work. Coming back to the real world can be tough. Go easy on yourself by not scheduling heavy-duty meetings for your first day back, which should be reserved for catching up. A midweek or Friday return date is helpful for a gentle re-entry, as you have the weekend to look forward to.

Be kind to yourself by taking a well-deserved vacation. Also, be kind to your staff and clients — and give yourself extra peace of mind — by being prepared and organized before you get away.