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Recession Vacation: Have Fun but Stay Connected

Lower gasoline prices could boost travel this summer—welcome news for the nation’s tourist destinations.  But one workplace expert, John A. Challenger, CEO of global outplacement and business coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., warns that fear of layoffs are likely to keep many Americans close to home.  And even those who do venture out of town will remain tethered to the office via cell phone and e-mail as they settle into “job-protection mode.”

Although the pace of job cutting has declined every month since January, job cuts remain at recession levels, causing understandable anxiety among workers.  “Many people are reluctant to take a two-week vacation,” said Challenger.  “For many, even a weeklong absence from the workplace will produce too much anxiety to actually achieve a stress-free vacation.  They will instead make due by extending holiday weekends, such as Independence Day, into four- and five-day getaways, minimizing the time away from the office.  In the current environment, where companies are making relatively quick decisions about staffing levels, being out of sight could lead to being out of a job.”

So, should you cancel your much-needed vacation?  No need to go that far, says Challenger, as long as you stay connected to the office.  His advice: take your cell phone, laptop, pager, and hand-held electronic organizer along on vacation.  Let people know they can reach you if necessary.  And enjoy some peace of mind knowing you are not putting your work at risk by going away.

"If you want to be missed a lot, do not disconnect,” advises Challenger.  “If you are a manager, stay in touch with your team members.  And make sure your supervisors have your e-mail address and cell phone number just in case you are needed.”

Although some may find Challenger’s advice distasteful or even counter-productive, he maintains, "The advice of wellness experts who urge workers to cut off all contact with the office while on vacation would be fine in a Utopian world.  But we live in the fiercely competitive real world, where employers cannot afford to put any piece of business in jeopardy because you are purposely unreachable.  Now is a particularly bad time to provoke any doubt about your commitment, because the pool of available, skilled replacements grows daily.”

“As work-life balance grows in importance, some commentators deride what some call office-obsessed people who cannot shut off work even while vacationing,” he continues.  “But the same office-obsessed worker is recognized by the employer as someone who puts the needs of the company first and therefore will likely survive any workforce reductions.  People who are needed and who consistently respond to those needs are far down the list of candidates for downsizing. Even if your supervisor never calls you, the fact that you made it clear that the office is a top priority will be remembered."

Challenger offered the following tips to ensure the highest level of virtual visibility while you’re away:

• Many hotels frequented by business travelers have fax machines in the rooms.  If this isn’t available, make sure there is an accessible on-site business center.

• While most of the large hotels now offer Internet connections (some free, some for a fee), some of the smaller establishments may not.  Before you leave home, research Wi-Fi hotspots near your hotel.  Note:  local coffee shops often provide free Wi-Fi.

• If traveling internationally, make sure your cell phone works overseas.  You may have to purchase a new chip before you go.  Otherwise, check with the hotel or car rental agency about leasing a cell phone.

• Do not change your voicemail to say you are on vacation and unavailable.  Customers may respond by going to the competition.  If possible, forward your office line to your cell phone.

• If you don’t have call forwarding, check voicemails throughout the day and respond personally.

• Check e-mails regularly and respond or arrange for someone at the office to respond.

• Provide your cell phone number, hotel phone number and/or e-mail to your supervisor so he or she can reach you.

• Make sure your laptop or smart phone is configured to retrieve your business e-mails.

• During the workweek, check in with your supervisor and/or a colleague in your department at least twice a day (once in the morning and once in the afternoon).

• Synch up your PDA so that your calendar, Rolodex, e-mail history, and to-do list are current.

• Don’t forget to pack the chargers and A/C adaptors for your cell phone and laptop. 

Challenger maintains, "It is very possible to have an enjoyable, relaxing vacation and still maintain communications with your employer and/or customers." 

Just remember to take some time to unplug from the corporate world while you’re away.  If you find yourself sending a text to your spouse sitting across the dinner table, you’ll know you’ve gone too far!

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.©
For more information visit www.challengergray.com