Managing Your Workload During Vacation

Summertime is here which means vacation for you and your team.  Here are a few tips for making the most of your time away from the office.

HBWeekly vacation tips

Vacation – What’s that?  Vacation is becoming a bit of a legend for the busy home builder.  Between constant email and ongoing high-maintenance jobs, the unreachable and seemingly mythological idea of vacation can feel impossible – not to mention the tidal wave of email and mountains of paperwork most of us fear facing upon return.  How can anyone truly have a “relaxing” vacation when unplugging is an impossibility and the phone notifications just don’t stop?

The answer isn’t simple.  The truth is that events, questions and client emergencies may crop up, but there are a few steps you can take to make your summer family time more of a vacation and less of a traveling office.

  1. Clear the Desk – Although you may have to put some extra hours in, by clearing your desk of outstanding items, from email to hard mail, you will avoid being completely overwhelmed upon your return. Purge your desk of useless clutter, and have all completed documents filed away. Try to complete all pending items, including estimates and follow-up reports.  The less you have when you leave, the more time you will have to get to new business after vacation.
  2. Empower Your Team – Let’s face it… Your work won’t stop just because you leave. For this reason, make sure you have a team member covering your core communications and responsibilities.  This leader should be reliable and well-informed on what to expect, how to handle expected scenarios and know how and when to reach you.  Have them keep a list of action items as well as track any actions they have taken on your behalf.  Keep it simple, and even if their support is not needed, you will have peace of mind in having back-up.
  3. Make Your Absence Known (and your presence) – Some business owners worry about the mice at play when the cat’s away and don’t inform their team of their upcoming leave. This is not a good idea, and may cause more harm than good.  By having everyone aware of your leave, from clients to employees, it allows you to answer any questions in advance that may come up during your vacation; additionally, clients who are accustomed to receiving immediate attention from you won’t be shocked when they don’t receive a lightning-fast response.  For clients, it can be as simple as an out-of-office message on voicemail and email that informs them of your date of return.  For your employees, consider having a brief meeting informing your team of your back-up leader or direct report that will be acting as your proxy.  Your team should be encouraged to present all items in need of your attention prior to your departure date.  It is also a good time to let them know that you will be checking in periodically and following up with them on progress and projects.  Although you will be out of the office, your authority should be clearly present.
  4. Unplug (partially) – Although completely unplugging for a week is ideal, most of the time it is not possible. In order to still maintain a sense of vacation, try scheduling a time to check email and voicemail once a day while away.  Only get to the things that require immediate attention; everything else can wait.  Be careful with opening Pandora’s box because it can be very easy and tempting to get caught in the wave of email.  Limit yourself to one hour or less, and do not get sidetracked with every message.  Plugging back in while on vacation should just be to get to any immediate items that are crucial and cannot wait until you are back in the office.
  5. Add a Day to Your Vacation – Adding a day doesn’t mean having one more day of beach time or sightseeing. The extra day that you should add is your first day back in the office.  No matter how much planning and delegating you did to prepare, you will have outstanding emails and work waiting for you – Just expect it. Try to block one day to catch-up on your emails, mail and inbox.  Close your office door, and don’t schedule any meetings.  This one day is important because it will allow your first official day back in the office to be clear and back on schedule.

With a little strategic planning and proper delegating, the mythical unicorn called vacation can be a reality.  Everyone needs to break away from the routine now and again, and taking a few days to be unproductive can result in you being refreshed and ready to take on projects with more verve and vitality than before you left. A little down time may just be what you need for a little upswing in production.

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