While sitting on South Beach during a glorious post-Labor day week on Martha’s Vineyard, the topic of what to write in my column this week came up. One person quickly suggested, “How about, ‘Don’t contact people who are on vacation about business?’”
The first thought that came to mind was technology is the culprit. It makes us available at all times and it makes it possible to do work from anywhere. The fact I’m writing this column while on vacation is a perfect example. Because of technology, people on vacation can do work, communicate, and solve problems for those back at the office.
I recalled pre-digital world work habits. I certainly was more difficult to reach, but even if you reached me, I might not have been able to solve a problem that cropped up. I wouldn’t have the work or communication tools with me, and it would fall to the people back at the office to solve it. But today, because we have the technology to be in instant communication with anyone anywhere and because we accept the tenet of 24/7 accessibility, not only do we willingly take a work call, but the people back at work are more likely to contact us than they are to figure out what to do themselves. And that is the real problem.
Back to the beach. The question then became, “So what do we do about being available?” Two solutions come to mind.
Pre-plan with the people at your office as to whether you will be available or not. “I’ll be on vacation starting tomorrow. You have my number. If something comes up, I am available to help deal with it.” Or, “I’ll be on vacation starting tomorrow and I won’t be available until the following Monday, so you won’t hear from me before then.”
Leave a clear message on your voice mail and an auto-reply for your email. “I’ll be on vacation until Monday. For any questions or problems, please contact Mike at extension 345. Thank you.”
Of course none of this changes the fact that you may end up doing work on your vacation, like me. That is your own responsibility. But it is important to take your vacation time. That’s something I have required of the people who worked for me at my advertising agency and now at Emily Post. It’s important to have time away from work to recharge your batteries. And bosses and coworkers should respect that time off and think hard before contacting those on vacation.
Unfortunately, not everyone heeds this advice. Last fall, Market Watch website reported on a survey released by Harris Interactive for the careers website Glassdoor: “Employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off, according to a recent survey of 2,300 workers who receive paid vacation.”
Take your time off and set your limits. It’ll be better for you and for the business you work for.
If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected] You can hear more Emily Post etiquette advice on the Awesome Etiquette podcast featuring Lizzie Post and Dan Post Senning. Listen and subscribe at infiniteguest.org.
Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.