Out of Office

As many people do in the summer months, I recently took a vacation with my family. In a house with two working parents and two teenagers, finding a time when we can all getaway is a difficult task. And while our vacation was not exotic this year (we checked into a hotel for a week), it was much needed time with the family and I am thankful for the time to recharge my batteries.

The Agile Manifesto states that we should be working at a “sustainable pace.” Yet many individuals I’ve worked with over the years rarely take vacation time off from work and when they do, they continue to work while on vacation. Why do we do this?

A recent Glassdoor survey found that only 23% take all the time they are entitled to and 9% take no time off at all. Another study showed that 2 in 3 Americans report working on their vacation. 29% report being contacted by a co-worker and 25% report being contacted by their boss!

A sustainable pace includes time away from work.

How can you combat this? Try these few simple tips:

Plan Ahead

Trips take time to plan. This is not only true for your reservations, it’s true for your work as well. Make sure you let people know with plenty of notice about your upcoming trip and set the expectation of what you intend as far as response times for it. It’s much easier to point back to a conversation you had previously and point out that you mentioned your response time would be delayed.

Set an out of office message

Remind those who email you on vacation that you are out of the office and wont be able to respond. Mention that a sustainable pace for you includes time that is disconnected from work. Clearly state when you will be out and when they can expect you back.

Demonstrate what you expect to others

Even more important than what you say to your co-workers is how you treat them when they are on vacation. If you talk a good game about disconnecting but then email them and try to get responses while they are on vacation, you can expect them to do the same to you. Show them what it means to disconnect. Many email programs will allow you to schedule to send an email at a later date. Don’t send them that email until they are back.

Remember that needing time away from work does not make you weak or committed less to the company than others. It makes you human. Even though only 23% take their full time off, those 77% who don’t still need it as much as anyone else and will likely burn out and become less effective over time. You owe it to yourself and to those closest to you to unplug.

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Brian Milner

About the Author

Brian Milner is a Certified Scrum Trainer that brings over 20 years of software development experience to his classes. Over half that time Brian spent working exclusively with organizations as they transitioned to Agile practices. Beginning as a developer, he worked up through management layers and eventually transitioned to life as a Scrum Master and then as a Coach. Having been in both Waterfall and Agile organizations, Brian brings the practical experience of having seen what works and what doesn’t in the real world. Brian has a heart for the Scrum Master role having been one for many years and worked with them in multiple organizations.