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How to Leave Work Behind While on Vacation

Jul 6th 2017
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Technology is incredible, but while it allows you to stay in touch from anywhere, it gives others a leash to always keep you close. How can you “cut the cord” while on vacation?

Take Short Vacations
When living in New York, I found the long weekend in London was the ideal getaway. Fly out on Thursday, return on Monday. Spend three days and nights on the ground. It’s guilt-free traveling. Here’s the rationale:

  • Thursday: It’s business as usual. You fly out at night.
  • Friday: They can live without me for a day. I don’t need to call.
  • Saturday: It’s been two days. I really should call. Oh, wait, it’s Saturday. The office is closed.
  • Sunday: It’s been three days. I really should call. See above.
  • Monday: I would call, but 10 a.m. in London is 5 a.m. back home. I can’t call in-flight because there’s no cellphone service.

Let People Know Where to Find You
Your cellphone may or may not work overseas. International cellular service is an upcharge you need to consciously select. Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere. Even if you are away from your hotel, McDonald’s and Starbucks offer free Wi-Fi.

Leave an itinerary with your office. Include country and city codes for dialing your hotel. Let them know email is a better channel because you will be away from the hotel for most of the day.

Trust them not to call except in an emergency. Work under the assumption “no news is good news.”

Discipline Yourself
Somehow, you feel there’s something going on that you are not being told. You feel compelled to call. If you are away for a week (or two), arrange to call at a set time on Tuesday and Thursday. This can easily be done via Skype. They will probably tell you to stop worrying and enjoy your vacation.

Sound familiar? According to The Economist, the typical smartphone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day. You will be tempted as you pass those McDonald’s and Starbucks everywhere across Europe. 

Discipline yourself to only check emails in the morning and evening while inside your hotel. Use your phone for taking pictures during the day. Set up an email folder with the name of your vacation. Move over emails of interest for review upon your return. You will be tempted to reply. Remember: If you reply, they will counter, expecting an answer.

Use a Local Office
In your job, there’s always a crisis about to happen. There is never a good time for a vacation. You probably work for a major accounting/consulting firm with international offices. Learn the location and contact information for the local office in the major city near your vacation resort. Speak with one of the managers at your firm, mentioning if a major issue develops and you were really needed, you could get to the nearest office and access relevant files within the company’s secure firewall. This is meant as a last resort, not the first option for your manager.

Another Problem: Mother Nature
Your practice involves travel and consulting. You plan to return from vacation on Sunday, then meet with a client across the country on Tuesday. But a volcano erupts. A storm shuts down airports in the Northeast. You aren’t getting home on Sunday.

Thanks to your company’s travel department, you manage to get a flight from your sunny island to the city where Tuesday’s business meeting is being held. You will be arriving on Monday evening. You will be there, but what about your presentation?

It’s logical that your office could overnight papers to your hotel on Monday for a Tuesday delivery, but that’s cutting it close. They can send you files by email or you can download them from the cloud, but you won’t know if this solution has worked until Monday evening when your flight has landed.

The stress-reducing solution is to pack a flash drive with the presentation plus all the relevant documents. Upon landing, you can stop at a Staples or Office Depot and print off whatever you need. Bringing along a manila envelope with the presentation in print and copies of the documents is an additional backup in case you accidentally leave the flash drive at airport security. This solution assumes confidentiality is not an issue for this material.

The office can survive without you. Clients expect you to take vacations. You would think twice before calling a client while they are on holiday. They will likely extend you the same courtesy.

Having a contact system established beforehand, along with a backup plan in case of flight delays, should reduce your stress level considerably.

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