Monday Mornings with Madison


Last week, we looked at the many benefits to health, creativity, productivity, and family that come from taking vacations. Men and women who vacation regularly (at least one week or more per year) enjoy greater quality of life… and live longer. Their families also benefit. Likewise, employers benefit from employees that take vacations because staff who vacation are more focused, productive, and responsive and have a better attitude.

However, in the U.S., employees are likely to feel guilty if they take vacation time and may worry that they’ll be replaced if all goes well while they are away. Here are a few tips to ensure a smoother vacation.

1. Create a vacation fund.
Put money into a vacation fund every paycheck. For a $2000 vacation, set aside just $77 dollars each paycheck (presuming bimonthly pay periods).  This will help absorb the financial impact of a vacation and ensure that it isn’t postponed indefinitely because of the cost.

2. Give managers and coworkers plenty of notice.
Aside from being nice and allowing time for staff changes or shifts in work, giving notice of an upcoming vacation solidifies the vacation schedule. It prevents others (and yourself) from piling on work with no end in sight. It also allows helps manage expectations as the date approaches.

3. Put it in writing.
Ask for the time off in writing. Often, managers will approve a verbal vacation request or say they’ll get back to you and then they get busy and forget.  If it is in writing and dated, there is proof of the request. While some suggest that it is better to ask forgiveness than ask permission, that philosophy may not necessarily be the best policy when it comes to scheduling vacation time. 

4. Be concerned and responsible.
If possible, ensure your work or areas of responsibility are covered while you are away. Willingness to pitch in and do a few things ahead of time comforts managers and employees alike. Concern for coworkers is always appreciated.

5. Book early.
In addition to getting the best rates, purchasing hotel and air fare well in advance ensures a full commitment to the vacation. This makes it harder for anyone involved (including you) to delay or reschedule a vacation.

6. Leave your Crackberry at home.
Don’t bring a smart phone from work on vacation. The same goes for a laptop.  It is not really a vacation if you are mentally tied to your work. The benefits of vacationing are eliminated unless there is a complete disconnect from all work-related activities including emails, phone calls, etc.

7. Let internal and external customers know you are away while you are away.
Program your work email to send an auto-responder message while you are away indicating that you are on vacation. No one wants or needs to know your flight information or where you are going, but do indicate when your first day back at work will be. Leave a similar message on your voice mail. If there is someone who will be covering for you while you are away, include that person’s name, phone and email in the message.

8. Treat yourself.
If possible, fly first-class, reserve luxurious accommodations and splurge on good food. The idea of a vacation is to enjoy and savor every moment. Unless you are used to noise, unsanitary conditions or crowded seating, it makes sense to treat yourself to pleasant travel accommodations. Otherwise you will come back from your vacation more irritated and tired than when you left. 

If you can’t afford the comfort of first class, make the flight more enjoyable with noise-cancelling headphones and a neck pillow.  If a five-star hotel is too expensive for your budget, try home-swapping. People who swap homes exchange their own home with that of someone else who lives in the vacation destination but is going to be vacationing where you live. You stay in their home and they stay in yours. It is most suited for people who live in or near a desirable vacation destination. You may get to stay in a great home nearly nothing. 

9. Don’t plan every minute.
Vacations shouldn’t be stressful. While it is good to have a sense of what you plan to do on your vacation, don’t plan every minute. Make a general schedule and a list of what you want to see and do. If you don’t get to it all, it’s another reason to go on vacation again. 

10. Don’t cut your vacation short.
If work calls and asks you to come home early for an “emergency”, don’t. Most emergencies aren’t emergencies. It is better to empower others to handle difficult situations without you. If there really is no way out of it, immediately negotiate for additional vacation time before agreeing to return. Compensation for altering your plans should also be provided.

“Every man who possibly can should force himself to a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not.” William James

© 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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