Away with words: can PRs really go on holiday?

I have a holiday coming up. Southern Italy actually, although with three young children it may be more of a trip than a holiday.

But if the conversations I’ve had with others in our line of work recently are anything to go by, I should be expecting a couple of weeks of having to catch up with work while I’m away: checking emails, taking calls, working on documents and feeling that balls must continue to be juggled when on holiday all seem to be becoming an accepted part of a PR career these days

Which is wrong surely? We may sharing the same stress burdens as airline pilots, those on an enemy frontline or people trading in billions each day, but the majority of us work extremely hard and risk not being at our best for clients and agencies if we don’t take the breaks that we surely deserve.

So how did it come to this? Mobile communication gadgets have of course enabled an ‘always on’ capability for those who want or are required to do it, but economic pressures and general working culture today surely play a part too.

I’m not unrealistic, I hope. Sometimes work will have to cut across downtime when your job is to implement or manage communications. That’s unavoidable.

Equally, and hopefully without telling people to suck eggs, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of having to work when you ideally shouldn’t be:

- Plan resources: work out who will take on your work while you’re away (someone has to) and plan that.

- Set expectations: tell people when you can and can’t be contacted

- Warm down and warm up: by that I mean manage projects and other commitments so that you don’t have lots of people awaiting an important decision from you two minutes before you’re supposed to board a plane

- Hand over: pull together a list of what you need to park with people, the details, deadline and who should do what

- Book well in advance: ideally, book trips well in advance so people have time to plan. Most holiday policies require this anyway, but forewarned is forearmed

- Hold decisions: if decisions can wait that then require you to take action while you’re away, consider holding them, providing the consequences don’t cause problems. Amazing how many people don’t do this, then wonder why their phone buzzes on the beach with questions

- Engage the team: let people know you’re going off, not to revel in it per se, but so it has sunk in

- Be self-confident: being able to delegate work effectively is part of the job, and it’s part of your role to enable things to go on without you for a few days while you need a break that will help you continue to do your job well. Be self-confident in that, rather than worrying about needing to show people what they’re missing

- Above all, communicate: a clear out of office message for starters

 

You’ll have to put in the extra hours to make sure you can go away with relative peace of mind, but I find it’s well worth it.

(Written from the Victoria Line, in haste, on an iPhone, between conference calls, on a Friday night, and at about 30,000ft above the English Channel, in a haze).

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