Monday Management Minute: It's OK to 'Check Out' While on Vacation

Here’s a tough question: Can you remember the last time you took a vacation and didn’t check in with the office? More than likely, it’s been a long time.

Or maybe never? While many of us started our careers in an office without email, mobile devices or the Internet, there are a growing number of professionals in the management ranks who have only known a wired workplace. Not being connected 24/7 may seem unnatural to some.

Change your out-of-office message to “On Vacation” — and mean it

True, in our e-world, “unplugging” from work isn’t easy. But one place you should leave any thought of the office behind is on your vacation. How can you marvel at the splendor of Paris if you’re scrolling through emails? How can you ride a roller coaster while reviewing a spreadsheet? How can you lie on the beach and think of nothing but the sound of the surf if you’re listening to a conference call you aren’t even required to attend?

You can’t — and really, you shouldn’t. And more financial executives appear to be realizing that, according to research by Robert Half. CFOs polled say they’re making a clean break with the office while on vacation. If you’d like to follow their example the next time you take time off, here are some strategies:

• Announce that you’ll be inaccessible — and then stick to your story. If you tell everyone at the office, and your clients, that you can’t be reached while on vacation and then start sending emails and phoning in, you send mixed signals. Just do it: Be incommunicado. (Unless there’s a good reason to be in contact. Please see the next point.)

• Clearly define what you view as a “crisis.” Your view of an emergency situation may be different from those on your team. For example, while you may not be concerned about a minor disruption in Internet connectivity at the office, you likely do want to know about the company server going offline for an extended period. Be clear with staff about what situations require escalation and to whom. Also, if you expect to be notified of office crises while you’re out, be sure to provide a way for people to reach you quickly.

• Set your team up for success. Don’t just take off and expect your staff to “wing it” until you return. Before you leave, meet with your assistant, direct reports and other key accounting and finance team members to discuss potential issues that may arise and how to address them (and when they should contact you and how).

Don’t be stingy with the kudos

Lastly, when you return from vacation, don’t just pass around the taffy or macadamia nuts you bought as a team present. Give kudos, too. Acknowledge employees who stepped up to help the office run smoothly in your absence. Also consider making note of their efforts in their next performance review. And the next time one of your staff members wants to take vacation, be sure to let them “check out” for a while, too.