Your Summer Work Questions—Answered

Time Inc.’s all-knowing straight-shooting vice president of staffing, Bucky Keady, tackles your warm-weather workplace conundrums.

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Photo by Sarah Maycock

Q: What’s appropriate office attire in the summer months? And what do you say to an underling who’s crossed the line?

A: “So much of this is about the industry. If you’re working in a loose environment for a creative company or a tech startup, you can get away with casual clothing, but it’s never appropriate to dress provocatively. That’s the line. Everyone should do the bend test before leaving home: If you bend forward and there’s a reveal—either at the neckline or in back—you need to change. Make sure all the essentials are covered up. There are certain trends—like allowing bra straps to show—and if you’re in that kind of company, go ahead. But be sure it’s a fashion statement and not just bad undergarments. Shorts are adorable but there are very few people who know how to wear them in the workplace. As for confronting an underling, I’d be gentle but direct: ‘I feel like your outfit might be a little too beachy. Maybe you want to borrow a sweater from someone.’ Usually friends will have sweaters in their office.”

Q: Should you check with your boss before you book a long vacation? How far in advance?

A: “If it’s longer than a one-week period of time and it requires booking ahead or other orchestration, the sooner you talk to your boss about it, the better. But be sure to ask, not tell. You can say, ‘I have this great opportunity to go to X. If I book it now, the rates are substantially reduced. As far as you know now, looking at the business calendar, may I take that time?’ Keep in mind that taking two weeks at once can be a sacrifice for business flow. You don’t want to be the person who’s asking to do it all the time. Know that it will be a special situation, unless this is a common practice in your particular workplace.”

Q: Do I need to check my email and call in when I’m on vacation?

A: “Unless you’ve cleared with your boss that you’re going to be in a remote location, it’s normal now to be accessible. In many cases, companies pay for the technology—phone, laptop, iPad—and if that’s the case, they certainly expect to be able to reach you. Follow the culture of your office, erring on the side of more accessibility. You can do a check-in each morning and one at end of day when you’re on vacation. Or just be on email—being sure to check it and respond a few times a day—and available by cell. Of course, if you’re working for a company that has new business initiatives or is rapidly evolving, the expectation is that you want to be a part of that, which means you should be easy to contact even when you’re out for the week. You don’t want to take yourself out of the equation. Vacation is a very healthy thing, but in 2015 and beyond, the understanding is that everybody is accessible all the time.”

Q: As a manager, how do you keep people in work mode when the weather is calling them outside?

A: “Personally, I feel even more invigorated at the office in the warmer weather. I find even if I work longer hours, chances are I’ll be going home in daylight and not missing out on a lovely summer evening. Having said that, we all do put our noses to the window certain days and want to be outdoors. I’ve found a way to keep everyone focused is to send an email in the early spring asking for my team’s vacation requests. In that email I always talk about goals and momentum and making sure we cover each other, so that we stay on task and continue to make progress. Then everyone knows the expectations are still there but they’re excited about summer and looking forward to their time off.”

If you have a question about work, send it to rsaskbucky@realsimple.com. Your question and first name may appear in a future issue or on realsimple.com.