Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
Some of you probably remember when a vacation was truly “away from the office” time and an Out of Office email reply ensured it stayed that way. In some ways, those were the good old days. After all, don’t we all need uninterrupted time away from business?
With the advent of the PDA and other newer devices, the game has changed. We have the convenience of being able to text, email and talk to clients and colleagues 24/7, but the flip side is that it’s more difficult to take a week (or, heaven forbid, more!) off without the intrusions of work, no matter what company vacation policy says. Wherever you’re going – with just a few exceptions – you can be reached. So it becomes a choice – how available will I be on vacation?
I believe this is a decision that has to be made on an individual basis – based on your job culture and type of work, client/colleague expectations, family/other demands, and your own well-being. The well-being part cannot be minimized – it is extremely important to recharge mentally and physically. And figuring out what exactly that means to you is vital.
On a recent vacation, I felt I was able to balance downtime and business in a way that truly worked for me. Here’s what I did that made a difference –
- I decided up front to take two weeks off, and determined that the trade-off for this length of time was to keep up with my work while I was away. This decision gave me a realistic view of what the vacation was going to be.
- With the decision made, I made sure I had everything I needed (files, computer etc) to keep projects going so I wasn’t blindsided when a request came in.
- I planned the activities for most days with some time carved out to review/answer emails – and, when there were immediate needs, to address them. The idea was to do what had to be done, and then totally enjoy the downtime.
- I began to see my vacation as just a shift in balance – whereas we normally think of taking a break from our work during the day, I began to think about work as “taking a break from play.”
In my line of work (marketing communications), and because I run a small business that clients depend on, a true “get away” vacation just wasn’t going to work. It really helped me to assess my situation up-front, be realistic and maintain a positive attitude. By facing facts and thinking it through, I came to a good resolution – one that worked for me.
How do you see it? Are you able to truly be “Out of Office?” Please share!