Oops – I did it again, I forgot to set an out of office reply on my computer before I left on vacation last week. I have a bad habit that I really want to break. Whenever I go on vacation, I never really allow myself to be all of the way out of the office. At least 25% of the time I find myself checking emails or even worse, responding to emails. Not only does this mean I’m not fully present on my vacation, but I’m concerned that I’m setting a bad example for my team because I see them doing this now, too.
U.S. workers took an average of 17.2 days of vacation in 2017. Katie Denis, senior director and lead researcher of Project: Time Off, who conducted The State of the American Vacation survey said that “employees rate paid vacation as the No. 2 most-important benefit, after health care, however, many workers still don’t take full advantage of this benefit.”
What about my role as a leader at CEA? If I am checking in when I am supposed to be taking time away from work perhaps I am sending a message that says I don’t think my team can handle things in my absence, and creating a culture that doesn’t encourage others to take a break?
Denis said the research shows that the clear majority of bosses agree "that vacation improves an employee's focus (78%) and alleviates burnout (81%).” I am one of those bosses, and I now see that I need to set a better example by aligning my actions with my thoughts and beliefs.
I just watched a great youtube video by Wolter’s World that really nailed down a few tips to help people like me let go on vacation. It’s titled “4 Things to do BEFORE you Leave on Vacation.” I’ve paraphrased it here:
1. Set an “out of office” auto reply on your computer. This is the first step in really “letting go” of work, because it sets the intention “I will be gone and will not be responding to emails.” It also informs everyone else that you are unavailable so you don’t need to reply to an email and people won’t be frustrated when they don’t hear back from you right away.
2. Determine who will take over your work. Another no-brainer, but don’t do this ten minutes before you walk out the door for vacation. Talking with your team about who will handle your calls and/or workload in your absence will give you, your team, and your customer's peace of mind while you are out of the office.
3. Clear your calendar on your first day back. On your first day back at work, do not schedule any appointments, meetings, or project deadlines. This allows you to check in with your team and share your vacation stories with a relaxed attitude.
4. Give yourself a “buffer day” at HOME before you go back to work. Instead of getting back from vacation on Sunday evening, schedule the return date of your vacation for Saturday. This gives you an entire day to do all of your personal chores and get a jump-start on some of the 200 emails sitting in your inbox.
A good leader will show their team that it’s good to get away and come back refreshed and ready to tackle the world. On my next vacation, I plan to practice what I preach!
Kim (Parker) Gusman, President & CEO