In a perfect world, your summer vacation would begin the moment you set your inbox's "out of office" message and leave your desk. As most professional communicators know, though, PR is far from a perfect world. Crises materialize that require your advice or input, while requests come down from the C-suite that you would be wise to address in a time-sensitive fashion. There will inevitably be endless reminders that, though your time twirling cocktail umbrellas and digging your toes into the sand may be well-earned, brand reputation never takes a vacation.
With some strategic planning, however, even the most devoted PR pros can protect their sacred vacation time from the shrapnel of a stressful job. Here are three tips that will have you whistling "work-life balance" before you know it.
Choose Your OOO Contact Wisely
It's standard practice to include the contact of a work colleague in that automatic OOO reply, but try to only include a single point of contact whenever possible. This not only projects the appearance that your team is organized and accountable, it reduces the likelihood of any confusion with regard to who on your team should reply to whatever pressing emails hit your inbox. A clearly communicated OOO chain of command ensures that the proverbial ship stays afloat in your absence. Having a single point of contact also keeps any messages coming back to you from one person, reducing the clutter and confusion you took that vacation to avoid.
It goes without saying that this one person should be competent to communicate on your behalf, but a big part of that involves preparing them for whatever potential situations may arise in your absence. Whether you're in the process of hearing back about a sponsorship deal or expecting questions or feedback from your boss, briefing that contact on what to expect beforehand goes a long way. Crisis pros love to stress the importance of being "proactive, not reactive," and you should choose a point of contact who operates from that same mindset. Briefing them on what messaging is appropriate for various clients can also greatly reduce the number of questions you'll have to answer while on vacation.
Carve Out a Fixed Bracket of Time to Check Emails
Don't be naïve and think that you'll be able to stay offline completely during your vacation, especially if a future deal is brewing or a future crisis looms. Instead, resist any knee-jerk tendencies to constantly check emails on your smartphone and set a fixed amount of time every day to catch up. Compartmentalization is the name of the game.
How much time you set aside for this should depend on the nature of your responsibilities and the volume of situations that command your immediate attention, but setting that amount of time beforehand is key. Pick a time every day that best jibes with both your travel itinerary and the needs of your role, then make sure you stick to it. This will keep your employees calm and collected in your absence, as they'll have an expectation for when you will get back to them. It also protects the vacation experience for you.
Let Your Travel Companions Know What's Up Before the Trip Starts
Protecting your vacation experience is important, but protecting your travel companions' experience is important, too. The loved ones you travel with want to be present with you and enjoy the getaway together. Let them know you want to be present with them, too, and set proper expectations around what's going on at work. Express your enthusiasm for the trip, but make sure they're aware of that time you've set aside to check in on the office before the trip starts. Build that time into your travel plans, while you're at it.
Setting honest and transparent expectations are the bedrock of any healthy relationship, be it personal or professional. Many of the instances when work-life balance leans too heavily on work can be avoided with planning and compartmentalization. By the same token, keeping your travel companions in the loop during that planning can minimize the amount of surprises and times when your attention is pulled away from enjoying each other's company. Putting this into practice will allow you to follow the words of Ram Dass and "be here now."
Follow Justin: @Joffaloff