In today’s world of real-time technology, growing remote workforces and 24/7 accessibility, boundaries between work and play have never been blurrier. Shutting down to take a vacation can seem like a luxury to finance and accounting professionals. However, wearing scuba gear at your office desk isn’t the same as taking time off from work.
In a new Accountemps survey, professionals said they plan to take an average of 10 vacation days this summer, which is the same as last year, and 30 percent said they plan to get away for more vacation days than last summer. However, more than half (54 percent) of them said they’ll check in with the office at least once or twice a week during their vacation — up from 41 percent a year ago.
Jump ahead to see more of the survey findings in the slideshow below.
What’s the best way to prepare for vacation, one that might offer you time away from email, spreadsheets, calculators, laptops and work worries, so you can return to work recharged, smiling and productive? Here are nine tips to take a vacation from work, trade out your dress shoes for flip-flops and truly relax.
1. Plan ahead to take a vacation
First of all, put that vacation from work on your calendars. Make a list of everything that needs to be handled and issues that might arise in your absence. Start this process early so you can be confident you’re not leaving anyone in a lurch.
Preparing now will also help your reboot have a lasting effect after vacation. Take note of any meetings or deadlines, and make appointments for your return to catch up on what you missed. Knowing what awaits you — and knowing that it’s manageable — will make returning to the office much easier. Rather than planning back-to-back meetings for the day you return, spread them out over a week so you won’t dread coming back to the office.
2. Ask for help from colleagues
Simply put: Delegate. If you’re a manager, it’s good practice to tactfully delegate responsibilities evenly among your team, to avoid burning out on person in particular. Ask staff members to handle your projects while you’re away, and offer to do the same for them when you return. Meet with those who will be filling in for you to alert them to upcoming tasks and deadlines. Explain processes and procedures, and make sure they know where key files are kept.
3. Bring everyone up to speed
Aside from colleagues and your boss, let your employees and clients know you’re taking time off from work. Whether you’re in the middle of a big project or deal with important customers on a regular basis, let the key players know the dates you’ll be away from the office and who to contact during your vacation.
Also, ask whether there’s anything you can do for them before you leave. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness, and the advance warning might prevent any potential problems from arising while you’re gone.
4. Designate specific check-in times
If you do plan to make yourself available by phone during vacation, tell your coworkers or employees the exact times you can be reached. Review those times, and avoid making calls outside of those windows, and maintain your policy of not checking email. If you answer only a select few emails and ignore the rest, you could send confusing (and possibly insulting) messages to colleagues, employees or clients.
5. Clarify exceptions to the rule
Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a crisis. If you plan to shut down completely, except for emergencies, be sure to define what “emergency” means to you. Have a premonition that a particular issue might arise? Let your backups know and leave a list of resolution options so they’re prepared. If you’re interrupted mid-vacation for an issue you deem trivial or could have handled preemptively, your attempts at rest will be foiled.
6. Consider temporary staffing
If you’re a manager and can’t find staff to cover you or your workload is too heavy for your team to handle, consider working with a specialized staffing firm to bring in temporary accounting professionals. These workers can keep things running smoothly while you and your coworkers take a much-deserved vacation from work.
7. Prepare your inbox and phone
Start with a clean inbox and voicemail, and then update your outgoing voicemail message and set up an out-of-office email reply.
Is there anything else you can do to prevent the mountain of post-vacation messages? Most email programs have a function that allows you to create “rules” for filtering your messages. For example, you may designate daily IT updates to the Deleted Items folder, because the content will be irrelevant by the time you return. Or you might set up rules that direct emails from certain contacts to the people who will be covering for you.
8. Clean up your desk
Make sure you clean your physical desk, too, before you leave so you can hit the ground running when you return. There’s a symbolic purpose to doing this, especially if you do it early. A clean desk can help you shift out of work mode before you leave.
9. Unplug and disconnect — or not
This might be the most important tip: Give yourself the ability to truly disengage from work and all your devices. If you must check in, provide specific times that you’ll be available, and limit your accessibility to those times.
Think of your vacation as a mandatory break for your health and well being, and be sure to block off some time when you get back for catching up. With the right preparation, you can return feeling more energized, ready to tackle tough projects and prepared to take advantage of any opportunities that may emerge.
Meanwhile, travel far and wide, or hang out in your own community. Write in a journal, learn something new, listen to music, watch movies, lounge on a beach, romp around with friends and relatives, young and old, or take a solitary trip. Whatever kind of vacation you take, consider it as time that's free from work, and enjoy the view!
Another way to think about it? Accounting and finance professionals rank lower than all the other sectors in the area of work-life balance, according to our report, IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® Whether you’re a manager or part of a team, you can lead by example in the way you take your next vacation — away from work.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2013 and was updated recently to reflect current information.