More CFOs 'Unplugging' while on Vacation

By AccountingWEB Staff

A significant number of CFOs will leave the office completely behind as they take their summer getaway vacations, according to a new Robert Half Management Resources survey. Fifty-one percent of CFOs interviewed said they don't check in with the office at all while on vacation. That's nearly double the reported 26 percent in a 2010 survey.
CFOs were asked, "During your summer vacation, how often do you typically check in with the office?"
Their responses this year
  • Several times a day: 8 percent
  • Once or twice a day: 11 percent
  • Several times a week: 13 percent
  • Once or twice a week: 2 percent
  • Don't check in: 51 percent
  • Don't know/no answer: 1 percent
Responses in 2010
  • Several times a day: 18 percent
  • Once or twice a day: 15 percent
  • Several times a week: 12 percent
  • Once or twice a week: 26 percent
  • Don't check in: 26 percent
  • Don't know/no answer: 5 percent
Paul McDonald, a senior executive director with Robert Half, noted that the continued trend of unplugging on vacation is good news. "It may indicate that executives have a stronger level of confidence in their teams and processes, and as a result, feel more comfortable skipping regular check-ins," he said. "With the prevalence of wireless networks and mobile devices, they know they can be reached easily if needed."

Time off Boosts Productivity

Executives were asked, "In your opinion, are employees more productive before or after a vacation?" Their responses:

  • After a vacation: 51 percent
  • Before a vacation: 31 percent
  • No difference: 14 percent
  • Don't know/other: 4 percent
So, if you're feeling guilty about spending time away from the office this summer, you probably shouldn't. You actually may be doing your company a favor.
- Max Messmer, Accountemps Chairman, author of Managing Your Career for Dummies 
There are extra benefits to checking out, McDonald added. "Placing trust in a solid team to carry on without your guidance can help you identify potential candidates for succession planning and promotion."
Still, not every executive feels comfortable disconnecting entirely, as evidenced by the higher number of CFOs (27 percent) planning to touch base several times a week compared to 12 percent in 2010. "Many leaders continue to oversee lean teams and need to monitor critical initiatives over the summer months, making frequent contact necessary," McDonald added.
While not every executive has the ability to unplug completely, those who can should. "By stepping away completely, people are more likely to gain the restorative benefits of vacation and return to the office recharged and more productive," McDonald noted. "Managers also set a positive example when they disconnect, since employees may be inclined to follow suit."
Out-of-Office Tips:
  • Set and stick with your out-of-office messages. If you say you're not checking in, but then begin returning messages on vacation, you send mixed signals. If you're inaccessible, stay that way.
  • Clarify what constitutes a crisis. Your definition of a crisis may be different from those on your team. Be clear with staff about what situations require escalation and the person who should handle them. If you expect to be notified of emergencies, provide a way for people to reach you quickly.
  • Limit surprises. Don't expect staff to "wing it" while you're away. Set people up for success in your absence by giving them a heads up on what issues may arise and how they can address them.
  • Acknowledge great work. On your return, thank the people who helped the office run smoothly in your absence, including your assistant. Make note of their efforts in their next performance review.
The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, a provider of senior-level finance, accounting, and business systems professionals on a project and interim basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with twenty or more employees.
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