Raise your hand if you use your Out Of Office assistant when you go on vacation (I hope your hand is raised). Keep it raised if you also check your email while you’re on vacation (probably a good majority of you still have your hand raised). Here’s the big question: Keep your hand raised if you respond to email while on vacation. Hand still raised? Half raised? This is a dilemma many people face when on vacation: Should you respond to your email? There’s no simple answer for this, but there are many things to consider when making this decision.
To start, sometimes you don’t have a choice. If it’s something urgent and you don’t see anybody else taking the lead on it, you may have to send out an email. Hopefully, you’ve left a contact person who is competent enough to take care of this for you. However, if a decision needs to be made and you’re the only one to do it, even the most competent person in the world won’t be able to make it for you. On the flip side, if you don’t have access to your email, then obviously you won’t be responding to anything.
Most of the time, you won’t run into either of the above situations. You should have a choice whether to answer it or not. In my opinion, if you take the time to leave a good person as your contact, you shouldn’t have to answer it. This is my preferred path when on vacation for the following main reason: Everybody knows you’re out of the office (hopefully you’ve communicated this to all your clients as well), so they should not be expecting an answer back from you. By answering, you open yourself up to the possibility of having to work for the rest of your vacation, as people know you are checking your email. Obviously, this defeats the purpose of your vacation.
The most important piece of advice I can give here is to leave someone competent in your place. This will solve the problem 95% of the time. For that last 5%, you are probably going to have to do something about the situation. However, one way to mitigate the impact of your vacation is to funnel your answers through your contact people. Call them up and explain what needs to be done. If they can handle it, then all you might have to do is monitor the situation instead of having to get directly involved. Another way to lessen the impact could be to suck it up and solve the problem immediately. Call whoever needs to be called and spend all the time to solve the problem in one shot instead of stringing it along. This way, maybe only one day is devoted to work instead of everyday.
Overall, try to enjoy your vacation as much as possible. If you have to put any work in, try to do it in such a way that the amount of time you need to spend working is minimized. Also, the better qualified your contact person is, the less likely it is that you will have to step in and solve a problem.