I was in a job interview a few years ago, and was caught off-guard when the person interviewing me commented, "I haven't been on a vacation in over 30 years in which I haven't taken a client call every day or had a conference call." (Later, this person offered the interview-ending remark, "Our clients don't give a crap about your daughter's birthday. They expect you to be available, regardless." This marked the first time ever that I de-selected myself from consideration right there on the spot.) What stuck with me, though, was the image of being on a beach somewhere and not playing with my daughter in the sand or not relaxing by a pool or generally not not thinking about work.
That just sucks.
The number of Americans who report working while on vacation can be as high as three-quarters, depending upon what survey you're consulting. Thank you, technology.
And in PR/health care communications, we all know that the work doesn't stop because we've retreated to the Hampton Inns. I have an impressive track record of surprise dignitary visits (and here) while my various directors have been on vacation.
So, a few simple tips for minimizing work and maximizing your sandcastle output while on vacation:
- Set your availability expectations before you leave: If you have to, set a time each day in which you will check email and respond to only urgent requests. (Define "urgent" for your staff, who may consider that to be something newsletter related.)
- Plan news releases in advance. Have a few topics for social media (use the National Health Observances calendar), and "timeless" releases that can go out during the week to keep things moving.
- Talk with your staff about who will be stepping up into the PR role while you're out. This can be a good opportunity because, inevitably, a U.S. Senator will show up while you're out. Or there may be a diesel spill, to choose a wild, completely random example. Something will happen that will require a colleague to step up, which can be a positive experience them and your department.
- Have a crisis communication plan in place, should the diesel spill or something else reach CNN proportions. This may involve having a consultant or other external support ready in the wings.
- Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead. Common sense alert: The more you do in the office before your vacation, the better. Meet with the team before you leave and go over what projects you've been working on, their status, and any assistance you may need while you're out. The fewer surprises there are for those left behind while you're sipping mojitos, the better off everyone is.
Finally, forget all of the above if you're planning a Disney vacation--you'll probably welcome the opportunity to check email, hop on a conference call or just not stand in line for It's a Small World.