Being There, Even When You’re Not

With warmer weather and school breaks, many people are planning summer vacations.  Whether you’re taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world, or making it a staycation in your own hometown, the common factor is being away from work for an extended period.  While it’s great to unplug and recharge, a little planning can go a long way towards making sure that your absence does not disrupt your workplace any more than absolutely necessary.

Plan Ahead

When planning when to take your time off, make sure you have no hard deadlines or deliverables occurring while you’re gone, or immediately after your return.  If your trip is scheduled immediately after a big deadline, make sure that schedule is not going to slip, causing it to shift into your planned time off – or plan for what you will do if it does.

Determine Availability

Think about your travel plans.  How often will you realistically be able (and willing) to check voice mail and electronic mail?  Will you be camping on a mountain in West Virginia, with no connectivity for the entire time you’re gone?  Or will you be hanging out at home, where you could check voice mail and email on a daily basis?  As well, consider how often you want to check in.  Some people need to completely disconnect in order to recharge, while others feel better if they can keep in touch regularly.

Make Availability Clear

Let your boss and direct know how often you’ll check email or voice mail, and when they can expect to hear from you. Set their expectations appropriately, and then stick to what you said.  If you do leave a contact number, expect people to use it.

Get Coverage

For each of your major projects, identify someone knowledgeable who will be available to answer questions and make decisions in your absence.  Put their contact information in your email autoreply, your voice mail message, and post it on the door of your office.  For regularly scheduled meetings, get someone else to cover for you, or cancel or re-schedule if necessary.  Of course, this means that you are willing to cover for others when they take their time off as well.

Publicize In Advance

Let people know ahead of time when you will be out of the office, and with enough notice that they can get what they need before you go.  You don’t want people coming to your office to get a crucial piece of information and being surprised when the office is empty.

Ideally, you set things up so well that when you return, no one will know you were even gone.  While it can be sobering to realize you are not as indispensible as you thought you were, it’s actually a positive reflection on your organizational and planning skills.  If you show that you have your responsibilities well under control, and that they continue progressing even when you’re not there, it will be that much easier the next time you want to take some time away.

Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Careers blog (—Brought to you by ACS Careers

One Response to Being There, Even When You’re Not

  1. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download
    it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really
    make my blog shine. Please let me know where you got your design.
    Many thanks

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