Returning from Vacation Advice

Memorial Day has come and gone and the annual vacation season is upon us. As I’ve address preparing for vacation in previous posts (Vacation Guilt), I thought it appropriate to discuss the dreaded (or excited) return from relaxation.

It seems there are two mind sets for those returning from vacation. One is the “don’t talk to me until next week because I’m upset that I can’t still be sipping Mai Tais.” The other is a refreshed, excited and ready to hit the ground running.

I came back as the latter. I had just enough time away to appreciate what was waiting for me at home. I can look at my daily responsibilities with a fresh (or at least fresher) perspective. The minor daily annoyances seem even more minor now.

If you’re of the former, there is a way to politely tell your co-workers that you need some time to get caught up and appropriately respond to everything that occurred while you were out. You don’t have to tell them you wish you were still on vacation.

The hardest and most time-consuming part was cleaning out my inbox. I had to wade through each one and give it the proper attention, even if it was a week old. On the advice from my co-workers, I did not set up an out of the office reply. Those who needed to know did and those who did not need to know didn’t.

The most important thing I did before I left was to make sure to write down my computer log in password. I thought I would remember it, but alas, I didn’t and had to check the post it.

Happy working!

Keeping a Balance

I’ve previously mentioned that I know all too well what it’s like to have my work be my life. It’s hard not to let work consume you when you are on call 24/7 or know that when the creek floods by your house, it will be you who is expected to cover the story.

Now that I’ve rediscovered weekends and evenings, it is hard to give them up. After more than a year of what used to be considered an indulgence, I still feel like I have a few more hours in the day and my weekends are longer. It’s a great feeling.

I’m contemplating pursuing a Masters in Strategic Communication. I say contemplating because while I know I want to and I miss the intellectual stimulation of college classes and learning in general, I don’t know if I really want to give up those precious hours. Especially since there is no way to stop working my regular 40 hours a week and go back to school full-time. It just isn’t feasible.

On the other hand, the knowledge I could gain from the classes would help me in my future career endeavors and give me more insight into exactly what I want to be when I grow up. It could fill in my self-taught gaps.

I don’t know which side wins out yet. At least I know the process will take time, even if I decided to start the ball rolling today.

Vacation Guilt

Photo from Daveferguson. org: Ferguson Family

If the mentality of those around you and possibly even your higher-ups is that you are lucky to have a job in this economy, how do you take much-needed personal or even vacation time without being overrun with guilt?

It is a well-known fact that United State residents take far less vacation time than any other industrialized nation. (A table on Paid Vacation Around the World can be found here and an article from Business Week on how much of available vaction time United States Residents take can be found here.)

As it is getting any time off approved in the first place can be a battle, especially with dwindling department sizes. But for your own mental health and for the good of your personal work, taking time off is important. But how can you feel like you aren’t letting people down while you are away?

I’ll be upfront and say, I don’t have the answer. I have some suggestions, but no clear-cut answer.

When I take scheduled time away, I try to make sure all pertinent projects are completed. Any projects that will be coming due shortly after I return are at least started and I have a list of what will need to be done first thing when I get back. Additionally, I make sure my supervisor knows exactly where I am in these projects so that if any one needs a status update while I am away, he has the information on hand.

These steps, don’t keep me from feeling guilty while I’m gone. I try to consciously not think about it and focus instead on enjoying the time with my friends or family. I don’t check in, unless I know I need to for a specific reason. That being said, I’m lucky. I’m not in upper or middle management and don’t need to make sure other people are accomplishing tasks in my absence.

How do you prepare for a vacation? And assuage the guilt from leaving your co-workers behind?

How to Deal with Office Survivor’s Guilt

Photo from Service Employees International Union
If you’ve worked in an office lately, you know what I mean. There are many kinds of Office Guilt. The most prevalent is Survivor’s Guilt if the pink slips or ax managed to slip by your desk or survivors enthusiasm.

While layoffs might not be as common, they are still happening and Survivor’s Guilt is still relevant today. As the February 2009 Times article states, “watching colleagues pack their things and go — and dealing with guilt that it wasn’t you, anxiety that you might be next, exhaustion from the extra work you must take on and even envy of those who get to leave such a sullen environment — that’s not much cause for celebration.”

It’s hard to go from a department of eight to a department of four. To take on additional tasks and keep telling yourself you’re lucky to be employed and have a paycheck still. But that mentality doesn’t make it less stressful. If there’s not a renewed sense of camaraderie or team building to make those left feel important, feel wanted, then it can easily become a place of people biding their time until something better comes along.

The newest lines of advice indicate you should never stop looking for your next position. Even if you’re happy. In the uncertain world of careers, this could be a lifeline.

My best advice? Don’t let people around you bring you down. If they’re being really negative, let them know. If you want to love your job and your workplace, do it. No one but you can help you deal with being a layoff survivor. However, that being said, if you are feeling very stressed out or overwhelmed find someone you trust to talk about it.

It’s the little words that count

I am attempting not to offend or miscommunicate by learning to choose my words a bit more carefully.

In a recent e-mail I used entire, when I should have used partial. This lead to a misunderstanding for everyone who read the e-mail. After a five-minute follow-up phone call, everything was clear. While I needed to send the e-mail for documentation purposes, I would have just rather addressed the issue over the phone in the first place. As many smart people point out on a regular basis, phone call lead to so much less confusion and there’s little room for misinterpretation, unlike e-mail.

How many e-mails a day do I write without really thinking about each word? Too many to count. As a writer, I would love to write something and then be able to sit on it for an hour, or better yet a day, before publishing or hitting send. E-mail doesn’t afford that luxury.

For the time being, I intend to slowly reread every e-mail before I send it. I hope this added time will be worth it and I will miscommunicate a little less.