The Case for Increased Transparency in Your Firm
Most people talk about disconnecting from their jobs during a vacation, but the reality is few of us actually do it.
According to a survey from LinkedIn, over half of professionals don’t use all of their allotted vacation days each year. Even when they do go on vacation, 70% of professionals admit they still monitor email, respond to texts from coworkers, check voice mail, take phone calls and even spend time working during their vacation. Is it any wonder people lament the “always-on” workplace culture and succumb to burnout?
I know I’ve been guilty of working on vacation in the past, but this year I wanted to take intentional time away from work to give my family my full focus, take a break from my electronic life, and experience the world around me without letting myself get sucked into client and team issues. I did this by going to England for two and a half weeks.
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as booking airfare and a hotel and turning off my phone. As President of the company, disconnecting requires quite a bit of advanced legwork. But I did it and you can, too! Here’s how:
Plan your trip well in advance
I planned my trip months in advance and set the intention to truly disconnect early on. Properly delegating work and training people to step up and cover new projects takes time – time I wouldn’t have if this were a last-minute trip or I decided a week out that I didn’t want to be reachable.
If you want to unplug and enjoy your next vacation, start planning it now. That way, you can start carving out time in your busy schedule to tie up loose strings, delegate work that needs to be done in your absence and get comfortable knowing the world won’t fall apart while you’re away.
Tell your team upfront
Nobody on my team was surprised not to receive a response to an email while I was gone. Everybody knew well in advance that I intended to unplug.
We held a few planning meetings with a collaborative team to ensure every area – from personnel to project management – had a point person ready to handle issues. This helped get our expectations for that time in alignment, and meant they were as prepared to handle things while I was away as I was to let them.
Remember, part of planning your trip involves preparing your team for your absence. Make sure they’re aware you won’t be taking calls or answering emails. You just might be surprised at how well they’re able to step up.
Hire a virtual assistant
Who hasn’t returned from vacation with an overflowing inbox? Returning to work to face thousands of emails and spending your first few days back at work sorting through client correspondence, invitations, newsletters and other to-do items is exhausting and quickly diminishes the refreshed feeling you gained on your trip.
My team handled a lot while I was gone, but I didn’t want to burden them with every task that might come across my inbox during that two and a half weeks. For that, I worked with a virtual assistant from Delegate Solutions.
I started working with my virtual assistant well in advance of my trip so we could establish expectations and get comfortable working together before I left. While I was gone, my VA monitored my inbox to filter out junk email, organize those that could wait for my return, and reply to or forward ones that needed action right away.
Email is an ongoing challenge for every busy professional I know. I highly recommend working with a VA to take inbox management off of your plate – even if you don’t have a vacation planned soon!
Leave your technology at home
I didn’t take a computer across the pond. I’ll admit I reached for it several times while packing, but in the end I left it alone. Of course, I still had my phone, but I made an effort to avoid using it to connect with work.
Addressing email was the biggest hurdle. On the one hand, I wanted my team to be able to reach me in the event of an actual emergency that only I could handle, but I didn’t want to fall into the habit of regularly checking my email. To overcome this, I turned off notifications from my regular email account and set up a new email address just for emergencies. That way, I could rest easy knowing if there was a real emergency, I could address it, but I wouldn’t be pulled back into thinking about work every time a non-urgent email hit my inbox.
If you want to disconnect on your next trip, leave your tech at work and consider setting up a separate email address just for vacation. Just make sure you don’t share the address with more than a few key people, or it defeats the whole purpose.
Schedule space when you return
I blocked out three days with a completely open calendar immediately after my trip. That way, if there were any issues I needed to address when I returned, I had some time carved out to get caught up.
Scheduling a ton of meetings on your first day back makes the end of vacation stressful. Knowing you might face chaos when you return, it’s too tempting to get a head start responding to emails and prepping for meetings. Whenever possible, build in some space. Even a few hours to close your office door and get caught up can make your return to work less taxing.
So what happened while I was gone?
I had a fantastic trip, and my family got all of my time and attention
My batteries were recharged and I felt ready to run when I came back to work
With a rested mind, ideas for new projects flowed freely
The individuals on my team had the opportunity to step up, take on more responsibility, and feel more confident in their abilities.
After two and a half weeks of enjoying my family and the world around me, I was able to step right back into life at Boomer Consulting, Inc. with no major issues to deal with and an empty inbox.
If you’re like me, the biggest obstacle to unplugging from work while on vacation isn’t technology or the work itself – it’s your own mindset. Next time you’re planning a vacation, don’t just hop on a plane with your laptop and phone in tow and hope for the best. Leverage your team and technology to come up with a plan to truly disconnect. With the right setup in place, you’ll be able to truly enjoy your time and relax on your time off. Imagine that!
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Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is a leader in the accounting profession with a passion for helping firms grow, adapt and thrive. She is regularly recognized by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her expertise in leadership, management, collaboration, culture building, talent and training.