I've known about 'working vacations' for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my dad owned an engineering firm. Every time we went away, it was a working vacation. However, I realize most people don't generally take these types of vacations. When they go away, their company and co-workers don't hear from them until they get back. And they definitely don't think about, let alone, do any work while their out of the office.
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Yet, this summer, I guarantee more people than ever before, even people who don't believe in working vacations, will take their first one. I've talked to dozens of folks who say the economy has forced them to cut short grand summer plans. "I'm worried how it will look to my boss," said a woman who just survived a layoff at her firm.
"I don't want to risk being out of the loop," said a guy who claims since the layoffs at his firm this past spring, workers have been more secretive and trying to one-up one another to avoid the chopping block should it occur again. Thus, knowing many of you will be giving the working vacation a go this summer, I thought it might be wise to share with you the professional DOs and DON'Ts to what is known as 'phoning it in.'
DO... Tell Co-Workers In Advance
Some people make the mistake of keeping their working vacation on the down-low. Bad idea. Hiding it from your co-workers seems deceptive. Not to mention, it leaves them no way of knowing how to cover for you in your absence. Just because you are technically
going to be accessible and will be doing some work, you are still going to be out of the office and possibly not available when they really need you.
Who should they go to if they have questions? What is the status of projects you are working on that involve them? Can they call you for non-emergencies? What's the best way to contact you if they do need you? Just like a regular vacation, you need to make arrangements for the fact you'll not be physically present.
DO... Clear Meetings And Lighten Your Work Load
A classic rookie mistake is to assume while on vacation you'll have plenty of freedom and can still attend meetings by phone or provide important work deliverables. It's vacation! You want to be free of constraints like these. Besides, you may not be in the position to attend.
TRUE STORY: I recently knew a person who agreed to run a meeting with a client while on vacation. He figured he could do it from a local coffee shop that had WI-FI. Not only did he get stuck in vacation traffic and arrived at the coffee shop 10 minutes after the meeting started, the shop was so noisy that his co-worker
had to request that he put his phone on mute and was forced to take over the call, even though she wasn't fully prepared to do so. It was unprofessional and left a less-than-stellar impression on the client AND the co-worker.
DO... Set Specific Times You'll Call In
My dad was a pro at this. He made it clear he would dial in at 9 AM every morning and that it would be the only time staff would get him 'live' during his vacation. They were always organized and ready with questions. Just because you have a cell phone on vacation doesn't mean you should be picking it up whenever someone from the office calls. It's better to set up a scheduled time and stick to it. You can even send e-mails the night before to remind them you'll be calling.
DON'T... Cancel Or Miss Meetings You Agreed To
There's nothing worse than promising you'll make yourself available and then either canceling last minute or forgetting all together. And yet, this sort of thing can happen on vacation. The good times are rolling and suddenly you're caught in a moment when you'd rather be doing anything BUT work. Skipping the call or backing out moments before is rude and will leave a sour taste in your non-vacationing co-workers mouth.
NOTE: This is especially true if you are partying. Don't take a call if you've been throwing them back. Seems obvious, but I can tell you, I've been on calls when a co-worker is 'phoning it in' buzzed, and no matter how composed you think you are, it does NOT come across as professional.
DON'T... Criticize Co-workers' Efforts From Afar
Expressing dissatisfaction with a co-worker's performance from vacation is like rubbing salt in a wound. It's one thing if you are in the office and can provide valuable feedback face-to-face. But, telling a co-worker in a text message or two-sentence cryptic e-mail from vacation that you weren't happy with their work and intend to discuss it when you return is pure evil. Wait to give the constructive criticism until you are back in the office and can A) fully explain yourself, and B) allow the person the opportunity to ask questions and get clarity as to how to make it better.
Okay, those are my professional DOs and DON'Ts for taking a working vacation. I'm sure I missed a few. So, I hope my fellow readers will share the ones I missed in the comment section below. But, please know I may not get to reading your thoughts until later in the week. Why? Because I'm on a working vacation right now...
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