Summer Vacation: The Strategic Value of Really Getting Away

Vacations and CFOs

Anyone who entered the workforce before the digital age remembers that “getting away from it all” was much easier to achieve than it is today. Critical tasks were delegated to others, and anything less important just had to wait. You’d tidy your desk and tell your colleagues, “I’ll be sure to send a postcard!” And no one would even think about interrupting your vacation unless it was an emergency.

For financial executives, it appears making a clean break from the office while on summer vacation is becoming increasingly more challenging. A new survey by Robert Half Management Resources finds that 68 percent of chief financial officers are in touch with the office at least once a week while they’re away. This is a 20-point increase from a similar survey conducted three years ago.

Just do it (it’s a good thing)

Regulatory compliance requirements, technology and growth initiatives, and, of course, 24/7 Internet connectivity and mobile devices, are all contributors to this trend for finance executives. However, while unplugging completely even for a short time may take some CFOs out of their comfort zone, they need to find a way to strike a balance, according to Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half.

“Before checking in with the office, executives should ask themselves if it’s necessary, or if they are doing so when they should be relaxing and enjoying their time away from work,” says McDonald.

There is strategic value in letting go, as well. It can have a positive impact on your team and the organization.

Setting aside work for a few days or more enables you to come back to the office feeling energized, and with a fresh perspective. And when employees see that their managers value their vacation time, and strive to maintain work-life balance, they will sense it’s acceptable for them to take time off, too. They also won’t feel pressure to be “on call” when they don’t have to be.

Your vacation time also can serve as a professional development “minicamp” for your successor by providing an opportunity for that person to take on higher-level projects and prepare for an expanded role. In addition, letting your most valued employees take the helm while you’re on vacation is a powerful gesture that demonstrates trust, and will help to make them feel valued.

Be careful not to overload your staff, though — they still have their own jobs to do. If needed, consider bringing in interim professionals to help keep key projects on track.

Set expectations — and give yourself a break

If really letting go while on vacation has not been your style throughout your professional life, be sure your colleagues know, before you go, that you’re taking a different approach this time. Tell them if and when you plan to check in, so they aren’t left wondering (and are less inclined to contact you).

Set realistic expectations for yourself, too, by laying the groundwork for a smooth transition back to work. One strategy is to keep a light schedule the first day or two back at the office. Returning to a jam-packed calendar can quickly make the rejuvenating qualities of your vacation a distant memory.

So, go ahead. Make plans, pack your bag and hit the road. You can take comfort in knowing that you’ll still be contributing value to the company in many ways during your vacation. You’ll be helping to promote retention, build morale, improve productivity and develop talent. That’s a good day’s work for any executive who is officially off the clock.

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