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 is the Senior Vice President of Training and Coaching with Mountain Goat Software and is a Certified Scrum Trainer. 
Starting out as a developer, Brian worked up through management layers, then transitioned to Scrum Master and then Coach. His practical experience in both waterfall and agile organizations helps him clarify what works and what doesn’t, plus he has many years’ experience helping teams transition to agile. 

Brian also brings more than 20 years of software development experience to his classes. People remark on his ability to answer even tough questions with ease, enthusiasm, and insight. 

Scrum Certifications include: CSM, CST, CSPO, CAL-Educator, CAL-1, A-CSM, A-CSPO, CSP-CM, CSP-PO, Path to CSP Educator, Scrum Foundations Educator.