Categorized | Career Development

Is a Worry-Free Vacation Possible for Executives? by Paul McDonald

The same economic conditions that have meant additional responsibilities for many executives may also be prompting at least some to better appreciate the value of a stress-free vacation. Should you join their ranks?

While it’s impossible for most senior-level professionals to disconnect entirely while away, an increasing number appear to be taking the need to relax and re-energize more seriously. For example, although 69% of CFOs interviewed in a recent Robert Half Management Resources survey said they check in with the office at least once or twice a week during their vacation, this response is down from 74% when the same survey was conducted five years ago.

What to Do Before You Leave

Here are five tips to help you ensure your time away truly feels like a vacation:

  1. Schedule ahead. If possible, aim to leave the office during a light period or when key staff members aren’t on vacation. Those in the office won’t be stretched too thin by your absence or feel the need to be in constant contact with you.
  2. Decide on a point person early. Designate a senior person you trust to manage day-to-day responsibilities during your absence a few weeks in advance.
  3. Notify contacts and clients. Before you leave, make sure certain clients and other business contacts are aware you’ll be gone. On your out-of-office e-mail response and voice mail, include the name of the colleague handling your responsibilities.
  4. Divide assignments. Unless the project requires the focus of your most senior person, you may want to distribute tasks to multiple senior-staff members to ensure that work gets completed and to avoid overburdening any single employee. Also, consider bringing in outside professionals to cover large projects.
  5. Determine your check-in time. If you must check in, try to establish “office hours” prior to your departure. Provide your staff with specific dates and times you will be checking messages. Resist the temptation to always have your mobile communication device in hand while on vacation.

Can You Trust Your Team To Make Good Decisions?

While these tips can help with making an imminent trip more enjoyable, the best way to be confident you can get away for some real relaxation begins much earlier. It starts with making sure you have a strong team in place who can easily take over for you when you’re out. Managers who groom direct reports to take on leadership roles will have an easier time letting these staff members make business decisions in their absence.

Of course, succession planning is important for far more reasons than preparing for a vacation. Identifying and developing future leaders is crucial for any business. But even managers who are not planning on leaving their organization any time soon can still benefit from preparing team members to move into leadership opportunities. Not only will employees be trained to assume your responsibilities when you’re out of the office, but you’ll also be building a pipeline of capable in-house successors as your career advances.

As important as the practice is, the vast majority (83%) of CFOs polled for another Half survey said they have not identified a successor for their position. The benefits of succession planning aren’t limited to the company. It also can have a positive effect on employee motivation and retention if the firm is not currently in a position to offer promotions, as is the case with many today. The process helps identify promising employees who may need additional attention or incentives to stay in their jobs, especially when there isn’t immediate room for advancement.

On the heels of the recent recession, managers recognize that while there is always more work that can be done, taking time to relax and re-energize ultimately makes them more productive. Executives who have strong talent in the wings can delegate more confidently, and get the time off they sorely need.

Paul McDonald is executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, North America’s largest consulting-services firm providing senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project basis. For more workplace and career advice, visit and