IN THE NEWS: The Washington Business Journal's TIP JAR features Sharon Armstrong

Vacation skeds no day at beach
June 25, 2010
Tip Jar
Washington Business Journal

Vacations can be blessing or bane, depending on whether you’re in the midst of one yet. The curse comes at both ends of the time off — hurriedly finishing tasks so you’re not still pounding on your BlackBerry during the painfully long drive to the beach or tiredly returning to a messy desk, logjammed inbox, full voice mail, overworked colleagues and cross-examining boss.

Summer is practically a three-month-long invitation for such experiences, but human resources experts suggest it need not be so taxing.

As soon as employees pencil in their vacation times, they should start typing out their work plans, says Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, a D.C.-based online network that connects job seekers with companies. In between booking hotels, she says, create a spreadsheet of all pending projects, including status, file locations, key contacts and any deadlines that will descend in your absence.

And under the two-birds-with-one-stone category, that work plan will also be a handy checklist for your sunburned return to the office, Huhman says.
Another tip: Send supervisors a friendly e-mail reminder a day or two before clocking out for the week.

“Don’t let your excitement about summer vacation hinder your work ethic,” Huhman cautions.

But don’t let your work ethic hinder your shot at some well-deserved R&R. Staying conjoined to your hand-held device guarantees little rest when it’s most needed, Huhman says, a surefire way of stunting your productivity when you find yourself planted right back in your cubicle chair.

… The out-of-office adjustments are arguably harder on a small employer. When two beach-bound staffers mean the disappearance of one-fifth of your team, businesses need to think of ways to adapt.

An employer’s job No. 1 is devising a policy that fairly doles out those precious days. Seniority? First come, first served? Rotating holiday schedules? Blackout times for the peak period for your company or industry?

Whatever the policy is, make it clear to each employee, even at the point of the job offer, says Dorothy Rosenbaum, a human resources specialist in the Rockville office of Kingwood, Texas-based Administaff Inc.

“Formulate some kind of policy so that people can see that there’s some criteria, that there’s not favoritism,” she says.

Rosenbaum recommends nudging workers to submit their timetables as early as possible and compiling them in a wall or online calendar that everyone can check.

She and others say the key to sanity amid a landscape of empty offices is lassoing more short-term help — calling all temp agencies! — or doing more with the lucky folks left in the office.

“Just make sure there’s enough cross-training that’s happened so it isn’t so desperate when someone wants to take off,” says Sharon Armstrong, who founded a D.C. human resources consulting and training business. “There should be some coverage.”

And she’s not just talking about sunblock.

Read more: Vacation skeds no day at beach, Washington Business Journal