Tech Manager—Extended Time Off
We all take time off – right? A few days here and there may be uneventful at work. But when you take a week or more off, things can happen that are unexpected. Projects keep moving. Others need things done. You need insurance for things at work when you travel. Not insurance for your travel, but insurance that things at work will still be handled.
Vacation time or Personal Time Off (PTO) needs to be used, but everything cannot come to a standstill just because you are off traveling the world. Lots of people don’t even take extended time off. According to a US Travel Association press release in 2019, “American workers left a record number of vacation days on the table last year (2018) —768 million days, up 9% from 2017—according to new research from the U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics and Ipsos.”
Sorbet, a PTO solutions platform, commissioned the 2022 PTO Survey in Dec. 2022. “The study found a colossal 55% of PTO for employees currently goes unused in the US, compared to 28% in 2019. On average, each employee only takes 10 vacation days a year, however, 4.4% of employees didn’t take ANY days off last year.”
Depending on where you work, or where you live, the laws related to unused vacation time might vary. Some States in the US do not allow a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy for employers. Employers in those States are paid any unused vacation time when they leave employment. Other States allow employers to decide what to do with unused vacation time. I am unsure of policies outside of the State. Any way you look at it, you should use vacation time to get away. Especially if you lose it at the end of the year or do not get a payout when you leave the job. Working too much is also a detriment to productivity. Everyone needs a break.
Go ahead, take some time off. We all need to do that. But before you do, get some travel insurance by taking a few steps to make sure it is a success. This insurance is free and helps you know what to do before you take time off, what to do while you are gone and what to do when you get back.
Delegate - I wrote about this before… you need to delegate, whether you are gone or not. But when you are gone, it is imperative. Assign others to oversee or continue efforts that are going on. If you are the one leading the effort, task someone specifically with managing the effort while you are gone. Tell them about the project, define expectations, milestones, deliverables and anything else that might come up while you are gone. Commission them to make decisions. Give them responsibility for acting and keeping things moving. Tell them that they will need to let you know what happened while you were gone, good and bad.
Prep for Milestones – No matter how much you plan your time away and consult the calendar, milestones will happen while you are gone. If your projects or other projects will reach milestones while you are gone, make some time to prep for those events. Maybe it is a design project that is coming to an end, or onboarding new staff, or welcoming a new client. No matter what it is, make sure that someone is designated to shepherd those events. This is similar to delegating but is focused on future events that are planned or unplanned.
Communicate – Let everyone know you will not be around and who to reach out to while you are gone. People will need to have time to contact you before you leave. Project leads and those expecting progress will need to know who will keep them posted and who to contact while you are gone. Let your team know how to get a hold of you and what to expect in your response times. Let people know a week or so before you leave, not the day before you are gone. Yes, this means that some might try to get you to do something prior to departure, and you need to juggle the priorities to make those things happen. Don’t silently sneak out the back door. It may be tempting, but not advised.
Be Gone - Embrace the fact that you are not at work. It may take a day or more to detach, but you need to get there. Forget the calendar and the clock. Be present with family or friends, or just the scenery. If you can get away from it, do not even take your laptop.
Check In (If You Must) – Sometimes you just need to check on things. But when you do, only reply to items that demand your attention. Don’t just read all your emails and respond back to all of them as if you were in the office. Keep it to things that only you would have the answer. You can check emails on your smartphone. I do that and can reply with short emails or forward them to others as needed. No laptop needed.
Set an Out of Office Reply – but only for internal emails. I never set an autoreply to external emails. If I did that, then every single email would get a reply. Even the ones that are junk. Then they would know they have a “live” email. And I would get even more junk emails. I have done this for some time and have not had any trouble with clients or vendors not being kept up to date.
Get Updates on Everything – When you get back, check in with everyone that you “checked out” with. Talk to each person who was delegated a task. Have them update you on what was completed, what was stalled and what was totally derailed. Talk to the project leaders to see how things went.
Take Things Back – The items you delegated. Take them back, unless the person is doing great, the project is one track or improved. Then they should finish the effort. Reward them for doing good. Your job is to encourage leadership in others. Part of that is passing things on and letting go.
Review Emails – even if you have read them while you were away. You may have missed something. It is always good to take a second look.
Don’t Second Guess – Do not be tempted to correct, change or criticize decisions made by others in your absence unless things are really veering off track. When you delegate, you deemed the person responsible enough and savvy enough to make calls when you were gone. If you review them all and criticize, then that person will be skittish to help in the future.
Plan for Time Off
When you take time off… and you should… make it a great time for yourself, others at work and your firm. Things can carry on without you. So let them. If you need help planning time off – go to https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-plan-for-vacation-day-last-tuesday-in-january/ - National Plan for Vacation Day was January 31st this year, but you can still make it happen.