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?

Work Family Blur

I recently read a great article about blurring the line between your work life and family life, especially if you have kids. One point the author mentions is to not talk about your kids every minute of every day. We all know someone like this at work, they have nothing to say if it isn’t about Billy’s first steps or Suzy sat up!

I do not have children. I do not care that Billy took his first steps of Suzy sat up. I find the constant talk of children and their events annoying and irreverent to the workplace. I’m not saying don’t share great news, but to those of us without kids developmental milestones aren’t important.

Furthermore, I see many co-workers who do have children abuse that fact. While a childless employee gets reamed for being five minutes late, a parent can get away with being a half hour late or taking a two hour lunch because Billy “just wouldn’t get dressed” or Suzy “spilled milk every where.”

It isn’t just in the corporate world, either. As a journalist all someone had to say was I can’t stay because I have to pick up so and so from daycare and that was enough to get the story assigned to someone else. Childless employees often got stuck with overtime and cancelled plans.

I talked with a friend of mine who has been burned more than I in this kind of situation. Her thoughts include, “let’s not forget working every holiday because people with kids are somehow mandated by God to get to spend it with their kids and getting REAMED for being ‘insensitive’ if you speak out against the injustice. If a woman at the grocery store is overwhelmed with her mouth breathers, why is it my job to offer help vs. get the shit stare? It was her choice to have children. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be kind but when did it become a required expectation?”

To her the bottom line is the assumption that if you don’t have kids, you have “gobs of time and the ability to work twofer – that is two employees worth of work.”

She wants to know, why do kids get to be an automatic pass to easy street or a “doctor’s note” explaining away persistently negligent and disruptive workplace behavior?

“I’m not saying isolated incidences don’t occur, they happen to us all, but anything more than once every two weeks needs to be called out,” she said.

The different standard for employees with children as those without frustrates me. Unfortunately, I do not have a solution. I’m open to any and all suggestions for dealing with this.