Etiquette Questions, Answered: Social Situations
How Can I Escape the Office While on Vacation?
Q. How do you ensure that the office won’t bother you when you go on vacation?
A. I used to think the answer was to travel to a deserted island or some equally remote place where cell phones don’t work. That strategy served me well for years when my kids were young and our family hid out every summer at a rustic lakeside resort with only one barely functioning pay phone. These days, however, that plan is harder to implement, as fewer and fewer places are truly off the grid (two round-trip tickets to Bhutan, anyone?). Besides, you should be able to vacation wherever you want—even someplace with Wi-Fi.
You know the office can survive without you for a week. Or even two! While I realize that not all jobs are the same, and that some employers expect you to be reachable all the time (a tragic fact of modern working life), many bosses can be persuaded to leave you alone in mai tai–sipping peace. You just need a plan of attack.
First, deputize a trusted colleague to make decisions in your absence. Don’t leave this task until the last minute.
Next, send a memo to your supervisor and colleagues, spelling out every detail you can possibly think of: upcoming deadlines, the location of key file folders, where you keep the secret supply of Wite-Out. Sign off the memo (or any other last-minute e-mails) with a jaunty “Remember—I’ll be back in just a few days.” That should serve as a gentle reminder that a lot of this stuff can wait until you return.
Finally, before you say good-bye to your supervisor—and if you can, you should do this in person—limit your previous night’s sleep to four hours. I jest (a little), but in all honesty it’s not the worst idea to look exhausted and spent at this point. Bonus for slightly disheveled hair. While you can’t literally tell your boss not to bug you while you’re away, you can let her draw her own conclusions about just how much you need a vacation.
No matter how many precautions you take, of course, there are no guarantees that your place of business won’t bombard your BlackBerry. If you’re certain your boss plans to be in touch, try this: Designate an hour or two during each day of your vacation when you will be available. (I will make an exception and allow more time if you have an incredibly demanding job—e.g., president of the United States.) Inform coworkers that you will check e-mails or call in at that time, then stick to it. I can’t stress this point enough: Don’t deviate from the schedule. If you do, colleagues will (rightly) assume that you don’t mind juggling your smartphone with your beach book.
Once you return to the office, be sure to thank the folks who subbed for you. Offer them a small token from your trip—no one ever went wrong with duty-free chocolates—so that they’re willing to shoulder your load the next time you need to hightail it out of town.
If your dark circles aren’t quite this adorable, you don’t have to grin and bear it. Try these (en)lightening strategies to minimize them.