You’ve been daydreaming about your next vacation for months on end. The flights have been booked and your hotel reservations made. The tropical beach is calling your name. If you close your eyes and focus hard enough you can feel the warm sun on your skin and the wet sand beneath your feet. Your trip is right around the corner. You’ve just got to make it another few days at work and then you’re out of there. Life is grand.
Not so fast. Before you go, you have to put in a fair amount of overtime in order to ensure your normal responsibilities and deliverables are met while gone. Then your manager informs you there’s an urgent issue needing attention. While you’re working on that, the e-mails start pouring in. All of a sudden everyone needs something from you at the last second because they know you’ll be out for the next week. To top it all off, you thought everything was squared away on one of your major projects, but now upper management wants a revision completed by tomorrow!
After a stress filled several days to get everything squared away, you’re off to paradise. You do your best to fully forget work and enjoy your vacation, but it keeps popping back into your mind. You know the e-mails are piling up. As soon as you get back, everyone is going to want answers immediately since they’ve already been waiting while you were away. The dread of going back puts a damper on your vacation.
Paid Vacations Come with a Catch
Some people are fortunate to have jobs where they leave their work behind them while out. For example, a nurse who goes on vacation will have another nurse fill in for her. After all, the patients still need care. This may be a bit of an oversimplification, but essentially she would have no extra workload before or after her paid vacation. Instead, she’d be able to leave and pick up right where she left off upon her return.
For many others, we must finish our assigned workload no matter how long it takes us. If we leave to go on vacation, there is no one who will step in and maintain our responsibilities while we are gone. In the end, we end up working the same amount of hours to get everything done. The only difference is we cram everything before and after our time off. In a way, paid vacation benefits are just a legitimized “excuse” to delay work.
With labor productivity up across the nation and an employer’s job market firmly in place, workers are already feeling elevated stress levels. Job burnout is a threat for many. Paid vacations are meant to refresh and rejuvenate. If only it were as simple as turning on your out-of-office e-mail notification and filling out your time card for the vacation. The reality is paid vacations can, in actuality, become counterproductive when you become buried trying to cram the extra work into your schedule. This begs the question: are paid vacations really a benefit?
How Can You Ease the Burden of Paid Vacations?
Short of changing the prevalent organizational culture (good luck with that!), all you can really do is your best to mitigate. Here are some suggestions that might help ease the burden:
- Try to Get Adequate Coverage - Usually you are given or tasked to find a backup to “cover” for you while you are out. In reality, this backup generally just serves as a spokesperson to remind everyone you are out of the office. If an urgent issue gets escalated, most likely the backup will just give it lip service until you return. However, if you are fortunate enough to find a capable and willing backup, then you might not have to address as many fire drills upon your return.
- Speak to Your Manager About the Extra Workload – Communication is key. If the relationship with your manager is healthy enough to broach the topic, then let it be known the workload is too much. Of course, be sensible when conveying this message. Don’t come across as shirking your duties to go party at the beach. Rather, clearly explain that while you’re doing your best to accomodate the extra work, it’s too much to handle and assistance is needed.
- Delegate - If you have direct reports beneath you, then be sure to appropriately delegate the work. Delegating can be difficult especially on tasks for which you are directly responsible. Taking advantage of this managerial power, though, can help to make your paid vacation more stress free.
- Check in While Out - This is a poor option, but it’s an alternative nonetheless. You can always spend a portion of your vacation checking voice message or e-mails. Even if you don’t get extremely involved with detailed replies, you can at least keep on top of developments. You will save some catch-up time too.
- Schedule Around Holidays - Taking your vacations around holidays has two distinct advantages. First, no one else works on the holiday, so that’s one less day from which you’ll need to dig out. Secondly, others often schedule their vacations around holidays as well. The more people out of the office at the same time you are, the less likely you’ll be inundated with work while gone. This strategy works more effectively around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Are paid vacations more hassle than they’re worth? Do you struggle with the extra workload before and afterward? Do you think any of these tips could be beneficial? Do you have any of your own to share?