Disconnecting While on Vacation

If you’re like many creatives, you may have difficulty relinquishing your work duties while you’re out of the office. Nearly half of the advertising and marketing executives polled by The Creative Group said they check in at least once a day while on vacation; only 13 percent of respondents said they never attend to business when taking time off.

Though touching base occasionally while on vacation is often unavoidable, you risk spoiling the benefits of being away from the office if you check e-mail during a helicopter tour of the Kauai coast or when dining at a hotel’s best restaurant. Indeed, vacations are a time to disconnect from the job, unwind and re-energize. Here are some tips to help ensure a stress-free one:

Time it right. Try to schedule vacations when your workload will be light. If you’ve redesigned your firm’s website, avoid planning your trip so that it coincides with the launch date of the updated site, for instance. If there are unforeseen design issues, your co-workers, who may lack the insight to remedy problems as rapidly as you, will be left to address them. And it certainly won’t be enjoyable to come home to dozens of e-mails about glitches.

Designate a point of contact. Ask a trusted colleague to take charge of projects while you’re on vacation and offer to return the favor when he or she is away. Provide clear instructions on what to expect and how to handle certain types of situations. Is your co-worker in charge of creating online advertisements for a particular client while you’re away? Let her know what design sensibility the client is typically drawn to and how the customer prefers to interact with you (via phone, e-mail or in person). Does this client usually make last-minute changes? Let your co-worker know. The more information your "stand in" has, the smoother things will go while you’re away.

Spread the word. It’s important to over-communicate when it comes to leaving the office; there’s nothing more frustrating for customers or co-workers than trying to contact someone numerous times because the person hasn’t left word that he or she will be out. Not only should you use your e-mail’s "out of office" function to let people know you’re away, but also give them appropriate contact names and numbers if they have questions that must be answered immediately. In addition, proactively send an e-mail to clients and customers, notifying them about your vacation plans and whom to contact in your absence.

Establish office hours. While it’s tempting to bring your laptop or PDA with you, consider leaving these devices at home unless absolutely necessary. If you must check in with the office, plan ahead. Provide your team with the days and times you’ll be checking messages so you can avoid interruptions or the feeling that you’re "on call." By having specific check-in times—and set times when you won’t be available—your co-workers will know to wait to contact you until you call or log in.

Bring in help. Hiring freelance staff can help ensure projects stay on track while you’re away, especially if your team is already operating at maximum capacity. Talk to your manager about bringing in interim help. If he or she agrees with the idea, keep in mind you’ll need to plan in advance of your vacation; you want to make sure you help set up your freelancer before you leave. You may want to work with an agency that specializes in placing creatives. If you’re seeking an individual with web or interactive media expertise, for example, the firm will be more likely to understand your needs and locate exactly the right individual for the job.

Even creatives with the most demanding jobs can have relaxing vacations with just a little planning. By considering when to leave, asking others to cover for you and arranging check-in times, if needed, you’ll be free to truly enjoy your time away from work. Bon voyage!

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.