5 Key Tips to Avoid Working on Vacation

Successfully planning and managing a good old-fashioned vacation can show just how competent you really are.

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Karen Burns
A friend is taking his family on a cruise. The thing he’s the most excited about? The prohibitive cost of shipboard Internet access. “On our vacation last year I ended up reading and answering E-mails for two to four hours every day,” he says. “This time it will just be out of the question. I will be forced not to work!”

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Crazy as it sounds, many of us continue to work on our vacations. We stay glued to our smart-phones and laptops, we check E-mail and voicemail, we call in to the office numerous times a day, we even bring projects along with us. The pressure to do this is immense, especially in a down economy, and you may have good reasons for doing what you do.

But let’s say you’ve decided that this year you’re going to take a real break. Look at it this way: Successfully planning and managing a good old-fashioned vacation can be a sign of just how competent at your job you really are. The question is—how to pull it off?

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Get everyone on board early. Well in advance, notify coworkers, clients, and everyone who might be affected by your absence. People can’t work around your schedule if they don’t know what it is. Two or three weeks before you leave, put a “Vacation Alert” notice in your E-mail signature line.

Find a vacation buddy. If your duties permit, train someone at work who can cover for you while you’re gone. You’ll do the same for that person when the time comes. Make sure everyone knows this is the person to contact with questions they’d normally ask you.

Time it wisely. You may be tempted to schedule time off for immediately after a big deadline or right before a new project begins. But timelines can slip. Build in a few days of cushion. Schedule your absence, if you can, at a time when your presence is least needed.

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Leave a roadmap. List key contacts, the status of all ongoing projects, the location of any information or supplies your coworkers may need to access, and send it to the people who may need it. Do this a few days before your time off and then once again right before you leave.

Neatness counts. Leave your work and workspace in a condition that others can easily comprehend. This is good for the job and makes you look good, too. Also, leave yet another copy of that “roadmap” in a prominent spot.

Should you check in a few times while away? It’s up to you. Whatever you do, keep in mind that it is in both your and your employer’s best interests that you get some decent, relaxing, rejuvenating time off.

Bonus tips: When you return, get to work right away. Don’t complain about the 500 E-mails in your inbox. In fact, don’t give any impression at all that your absence has impaired your work, made you lazy, or put you out of touch or behind. Instead, make it obvious how glad you are to be back and demonstrate how much the vacation has made you even more effective and productive.

Be a good role model. Show it’s possible to both take a vacation and be a great employee! Oh, and have a wonderful time.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.