How Taking A Vacation Can Help Your Career

How Taking A Vacation Can Help Your Career

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The humidity has arrived, Kings Island is jumping, and all the hot acts are on their way to Riverbend.  Its Cincinnati’s way of saying, "summer's here!"

The time of year is upon us that makes memories and sets the stage for unforgettable trips to escape the daily grind. Here are some tips on how to schedule that much needed time off and what to do before you leave.

Compared to other countries, Americans receive the fewest vacation days per year. According to, Americans take an average of 13 vacation days, which is dismal compared to Japan's 25, Canada's 26, Britain's 28, France's 37 and Italy's whopping 47! So what can you do to help leave the worries of work behind?

Regardless if you are an hourly employee, salaried manager or owner, there are some basic guidelines and "to-dos" we should all try to follow.

  1. Make sure that time is available. Before you book flights, hotels or other accommodations, check to see if you can even take off. Many, if not all, companies require submission of a vacation request.
  2. Notify clients, customers and fellow employees that you will be out of the office. Two weeks is the minimum, but try to give as much notice as early as possible. Let them know who they can contact in your absence, their contact numbers and e-mail address.
  3.  Take care of all forms of communication. Many e-mail programs have "out of office" messages you can set up, or your IT department can help. Change your voice-mail or set up a message that directs the caller to contact your designated person. Also, make arrangements for your faxes to be picked up and taken care of. Instead of saying you are on vacation, out of the country or nobody is at the building, state that you are out of the office and what date you will return. For small business owners or home businesses, this announces to thieves that the coast is clear to break in.
  4. Take an inventory of recently completed, current and future projects. Try to finish as much as you can before you go so nothing sits while you are gone. This also helps ease the apprehension of coming back to an overflowing workload. It's a good idea to give a heads up, or go over any possible problems that might arise with certain accounts or projects with some other workers.
  5. Try to cross train. Even though another person might not know everything there is about your job, it is very helpful to have someone who knows the basics just incase something needs to be done. Pass on any odd jobs or office duties that you are responsible for such as stocking the restroom, maintaining the copy and fax machine, turning off fans or lights, etc. Many of these things go unseen—there isn't a paper fairy who stocks the 8½x11 tray every night while everyone is gone.

Being a location manager or business owner makes it a little harder to take planned vacation time. You might be able to sneak out of the office early or take extended lunches, but actually leaving for days on end can leave a lot of open holes in the daily business. Besides covering the tips listed above, don't forget about these items:

  1. Make sure that all checks are signed and bills are paid. Get together with whoever receives mail or handles accounting to make sure that all bases are covered.
  2. Stock your petty cash, and if needed, leave a check for a designated person to cash in case of an emergency.
  3. Leave emergency contact information for any maintenance problem that might arise such as the electrician, phone, computer systems, etc. This also includes your emergency information—and stress "emergency". The point of taking a vacation is to get away from the office, not have it calling you. Don't want to sound too stern? Joke and say, "Unless the building is on fire, I'll be at the beach!"
  4. Arrange for you confidential documents to be handled accordingly. Designate a trusted employee to handle your e-mail, snail mail, faxes or voice-mail. If you would rather keep all documents unopened until you return, at least have someone collect any items that arrive for you.
  5. Have your employees give you a list of items or issues they need to address with you before you leave. Take care of any problems or questions—this helps set your mind and theirs at ease.

Being a business owner, it can be hard to let go of control. This can really put your business, and staff, to the test to see how well it functions without you. Even though when the cat's away, the mice will play, try to trust your workers that they will do their job. Even with the freedom they might feel with you being gone, they will still get their tasks completed – probably to avoid retribution when you return – but they will work.

If you still feel more comfortable calling to check in, keep in minimal, once or twice and only talk to one designated person (probably the same person handling your communications). Whether you call daily or once, it is a good idea not to call at the beginning and end of your vacation. It's your time away from work, enjoy it!

If you have vacation time, use it. It is important to take time off, both physically and mentally. Some companies offer payment for vacation time not used, and while it is tempting to get an extra check on your anniversary date, relaxing poolside for a few days is well worth it. Vacation time is given to you for a purpose, so don't feel bad taking time off or feel that you are burdening others with your absence.

Finally, try taking vacation time for extended periods rather than one day here, another day there. You will feel much more relaxed once as you get to unwind and breathe for more time than a three day weekend. Also, ease back into the work week. Avoid flying in at 8:00 on a Sunday night, only to turn around and head to work at 7:00 the next morning. Take a day or two to slip back into reality before slamming yourself with work less than 24 hours of heading home from the beach.

Now if only you could only figure out what it is you forgot to pack…