Management Minute: 4 Tips for a Successful Working Vacation

Working Vacation

When this time in June rolls around, thoughts inevitably turn to summer vacation. The kids call for beaches and theme parks, while your spouse muses on the cultural benefits of a European tour. But whether you’re looking for a job or you’ve just taken on a new project at work, you may not be able to unplug completely. You're up for a working vacation.

In a new Robert Half survey, only 32 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed said they expect to unplug completely on vacation this summer, down from 51 percent three years ago. And for the rest, 68 percent of CFOs, they'll probably be in touch with the office at least once a week while on summer vacation, compared with 48 percent in 2012.

Among Americans of all walks of life polled in a new RAND Corporation survey, 40 percent mostly checked emails last summer on vacation, while 12 percent “worked like normal.” In that case, why bother going on vacation at all?

There are actually many reasons that vacation time is necessary, including recharging your energy, boosting productivity and increasing your general happiness. But “working vacation” doesn't have to be an oxymoron. Here are some tactics for leaving the office behind, enjoying much-needed time off and still working remotely when required.

1. Assign an in-office point person.

Look at your vacation as you would any new project. That includes appointing a team leader who can handle your accounts or clients. Then you can rest easy knowing that no one will be left in the lurch. But be sure to establish ground rules for how they will contact you while on vacation. Let your point person know precisely when you can be contacted and under which circumstances.  

2. Set a schedule.

Make sure your working vacation is mostly vacation time. No one wants to sit on a beach with someone who’s talking shop on a cell phone or reviewing spreadsheets in front of the Grand Canyon. Set a schedule so you'll know when you're going to work remotely, and relay that information to your point person. Choose the early morning or evening (before cocktail hour) to answer emails or tackle issues that can't wait until you’re back in the office. And when you're on the beach or seeing the sights, leave your devices behind (or stowed firmly in your pocket).

3. Do business by text only.

It's hard to ignore a ringing phone, especially when it's the office calling. Try switching to text only, and explain this plan to your coworkers before you leave. Texting will force everyone to be concise with their requests, and it will allow you to answer questions quickly and directly. 

4. Consider the Internet connection.

Prepare for spotty hotel Wi-Fi by adding a tethering plan to create a personal hotspot for your cell phone. Then pack a power strip and a Wi-Fi router, in case your room doesn't have enough outlets, and set up a secondary browser that can kick in if your primary one is too slow. 

Of course, you could always head to a resort in an exotic locations that has added coworking spaces. The New York Times calls this the busman’s holiday for the digital age.

When you can’t avoid a working vacation, you can still reap the rewards of your time off. Just be sure to lay the groundwork with your colleagues ahead of time, then be diligent with yourself about actually unplugging from work — and avoid stressing about what's happening back at the office. 

What tactics do you employ when taking a working vacation? Share your experience below.