Welles: Getting away

Taking a vacation will improve your performance at work, and it can also be a test of your leadership

If you haven’t take time off yet this summer, there is still time to do it — and fall vacations are often even better. Your health — and your effectiveness at the office — depends on you getting some time off to destress.

Here are some tips, from CIO Magazine’s C.G. Lynch and others, for getting out of your always-on, around-the-clock routine.

1. Plan for your absence
Planning for your vacation means more than saying what dates you’ll be gone. Lynch noted the advice of career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman: “Take a look at your projects, and let your staff know what they need to do,” she said. “It’s so important to be as specific as possible with people.”   

Consider a time of the year when things seem to slow down just a bit.  Even though information technology is 24/7, like all businesses there usually is a cycle in which  there are calmer times.
   
2. To connect or disconnect
The decision of whether to stay connected to your office may determine how rested you are when you return. It also depends, of course, on where you decide to go.  Some exotic locations simply do not make it possible to stay connected. But if you are in a suitable location and you must take e-mail, do it in moderation. For example, check messages just once, in the morning or the evening.   

Others advise coming back a day early to check those messages.    That lost day, however, somewhat defeats the purpose of taking time off.   

Maybe getting away should include going off-line. When in doubt, disconnect. If something does go wrong while you’re away, checking and responding to e-mails may do more to raise your stress level than to solve the problem.

3. Be willing to delegate
Your vacation can help you build even stronger relationships with your staff by empowering them to make decisions.  Clearly delegate your authority to them and stand behind their decisions when you return. This also helps continuity-of-operations and succession planning.

Making yourself redundant doesn’t lessen your status. Having things go smoothly when your staff runs things without you is the test of a good leader.

4. Calculate re-entry
A common tip is that instead of being overwhelmed by e-mail messages when you return, a debriefing session with your second-in-command may be a more effective approach to re-entry.

One bold executive who went on a three-week vacation ordered that no e-mail messages be saved for him on the theory that anything truly important would have been taken care of before his return. 
 
5. Get a life
Everyone feels indispensable, but if you’ve done your job, your organization should be able to run without you when you take a break. If all those ducks are not yet in line, going away for a short time is not going to make it any worse. Your health, and sometimes your sanity, depends on your taking a vacation once in a while.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at jwelles@1105govinfo.com.

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