Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Holiday Time

It's that time of the year again - the time to rush out of the office two hours late, into an over-packed estate car with various family members, and to endure a long car journey to your holiday destination. Having arrived, much later than planned, tired and stressed, your first action will be to take your Blackberry out of your pocket as see if you get signal - thereby upsetting your partner to the point of being able to get the first row of the holiday out of the way there and then.

There is an alternative. It does, however, require a little planning. That's why I suggest it now. So - sit back, read carefully and find a way to actually enjoy your holiday - from the first day.

  1. Plan your last day. Think about all the appointments you have that day and establish a realistic time to finish. If you have a 5pm conference, arranging to meet your family outside the office at 6pm is a recipe for stress. Much better to meet later, but without having to rush.
  2. Arrange a single point of contact. If you have a secretary, then she is a good person to control contact with you during your holiday. There should (where possible - many bosses are less keen on the idea...) be only one person who is delegated with contacting you if necessary and who has the full details of your trip, including hotel numbers, airline details etc. Check in advance if there is a mobile signal - if not, then you may choose to have a land-line chat every couple of days with your contact-person instead.
  3. Have the "emergency" conversation. Sit down with your contact-person and talk about what sort of incidents and events might constitute the sort of emergency that would require your input. You don't want to be contacted two or three times a day because it has been difficult to find a client - but, equally, you don't want to return to the office to find a smoking ruin and an assistant saying "...well, we didn't want to bother you..."
  4. Talk with your team. Speak to the people who work for and with you. Make sure that they know that you are going on holiday - and that they know that they will not be able to contact you other than through your contact-person (se above). Make sure that they understand your deadline on your last day (and I'd recommend that you tell everyone you are leaving some hours before you actually hope to.
  5. Update. If you are going away from the office for a while - two or three weeks, say - then arrange to have a written update emailed to you at the end of each week. This should be a short-ish document (2 or 3 pages) bringing you up to date with the important issues. Obviously this needs to be written by someone you trust to tell you the truth, to understand the important issues and to tell you that your input is required only if it really is.
  6. Tell your clients. I know that this is contentious, but it really is better than they can think of you as human. Say who will be heading their case/matter/issues and tell them about your primary contact-person.
  7. Have the email conversation. Let's be honest - you're probably going to read your emails. Set a time at the beginning or end of the day - but make sure that someone else has been though your emails and flagged the important ones that you might be able to look at briefly in that 5-10 minute period. Note that you are not guaranteeing to read email every day - you are guaranteeing that you will not read emails other than during a narrow window. After all, you've already arranged what will happen if there really is an emergency...
  8. Have some time alone in between finishing work on your last day and coming home as a "holiday person". You need to change your perspective and you need to positively think about being away from the office, about being on holiday rather than at work, and you need to prepare to be available to your partner / children / dogs from now on.
So now you can relax. You know that the work is being done, everyone knows what to do and that both you and your office understand when contact is necessary.

It is important to have a proper holiday. You and your family deserve it and your team deserves to have you at your best (and, to be honest, they may enjoy you being out of the office).

Relax, chill out, play silly games, walk in the sea, count clouds, pick flowers, talk at length with the people you love, chat with furry animals, sleep. It's what holidays are for.

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