Stay at home!

erkältung

© Foto: djd/www.orthomol.de

 

A few questions to the colleague who is coming to office with a severe cold or even flu.

  1. Why are you resistant to efficiently recover but unnecessarily drag your impairment? Why do you refuse to restore your productivity in your own and your company’s interest?
  2. Why are you tangled up in the outdated perception, work performance and quality would be proven by hours spend in the office? They – are – not!
  3. Why do you infect the whole team by incubating them for hours with your sprayed viruses? Why do you intentionally harm your colleagues and jeopardize the productivity of the whole team?

Do you really think that coming to office sneezing and coughing would be an achievement, a sign of commitment, or in any way productive?

No, sorry, to my opinion this is just an explicit mindless, inconsiderate and irresponsible behavior.

So, just stop it … please! Stay at home, take a short break, sleep a lot, recover well, and be back restored and filled with energy.

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Right, I’m off then …

View onto the Zambezi river

©1994 Christian Velten

 

Holiday season. A couple of weeks ago, we had a nice team coffee, and among other things we were discussing our accessibility during vacation … not if but how everybody would be available during vacation.

Honestly spoken, I was completely shocked. It was very clear for me that having a frequent look at my mails or being available for being called would never allow me truly enjoying my vacation and achieving the core objective of any vacation to – believe it or not – intentionally disconnect from work and recharge. For good reason more and more companies today even ban the use of corporate mail if not smartphone during recreational holiday.

Vice versa, I produced incredulous amazement by stating that I was going to spend my vacation without my company smartphone or any other connection to business communication channels. As I am doing for many years and many vacations now.

But how do I smartly manage being off for 2-3 weeks without caring for business email and phone?

Those are the rules I am following with each single vacation for many years now …

  1. Accept your replaceability
  2. Have substitutes
  3. Pre-notify about your coming absence
  4. Have a significant OOO notification
  5. Have your OOO notification one day earlier and one additional day after
  6. No meetings scheduled on last and first day
  7. Have a private phone
  8. Enjoy your return

No one is irreplaceable

The first step is a simple but difficult lesson. Some colleagues seem to think that the world would stop turning without them, at least that business would completely break down. I am afraid to say: this actually is a fatal illusion! No one is really irreplaceable. Or in other words, having your business depending on the availability of single individuals would be extremely bad management. What do you think would happen if you would have to undergo a major surgery including being placed in an artificial coma for 2-3 weeks? Would your team stop working and the business crash? I don’t really think so. And if this situation can be managed, why can’t an ordinary vacation absence be equally? Or are you really missing this competence?

Accept that you are factually replaceable, and enjoy the pleasure of this knowledge.

Have substitutes

I mean, shouldn’t you generally have clearly assigned substitutes in place? You as a team member as well as you as a team leader. Sorry for my frankness, but wouldn’t not having substitutes for your function and responsibilities intentionally jeopardize business continuity and be completely irresponsible? So, you anyhow should have a clear and communicated set of substitution rules in place. This makes everybody’s life easier, not only in vacation times.

Pre-notify about your coming absence

Dropping a kind of “forewarning” 1.5-2 weeks before a longer leave has been proven highly effective in taking pressure out of the situation. I started this measure many years ago as an independent entrepreneur, early informing all clients, team members, project contributors, collaborators and external agencies. So, basically anyone who might depend on me or may have urgent need for support. This prenotification is not only telling about my absence, but also that in case anything urgent should be done or would be needed before, one can drop me a note up to 3 days before my leave, giving me some time to care for late things. This approach always was highly appreciated and resulted in extremely positive feedback, esp. by clients.

My learning has been, that not the absence or unavailability is the issue, but missing information and the perception of being left alone. So, proactively show that you care.

Have a significant OOO notification

Amongst us, “I am OOO.” is not really a very significant out-of-office notification. OK, it is very clear, simple, and provides at least the key message. But joking apart, I personally prefer to provide few additional information, which support the receiver with what he can expect when and by who. Still short, clear and simple. So, I typically provide the earliest day people an expect me to come back to them again, my substitution rules, and a nice wording to not accidentally leave people being peeved off when realizing that I am enjoying my vacation while they need to work hard.

Have your OOO notification one day earlier and one additional day after

OK, it might be a mistake disclosing this ‘secret’ now. At least this might show me who of my appreciated colleagues is actually reading this blog attentively. So, just between ourselves: I generally have my out-of-office notification activated on my last day before my leave already and also on the first day I am back in office. This takes a lot of pressure from the last and first working days surrounding my vacation. I keep control which things are urgent enough to additionally put on my pile on the last day, and I keep control over the first day of my return, esp. creating a buffer for coping with piled up emails. And for my team mates I am anyhow available in the office for late urgent stuff.

No meetings scheduled on last and first day

Same as before. A very simple and efficient measure allowing you to smoothly fade out – fade in. It is in your hands.

Have a private phone

It is about reducing temptation and opportunities. I never take my corporate phone nor my laptop along me for vacation. Clear rule, easy to follow. Taking your laptop with you gives you the illusion of being fully productive everywhere … but you are not. And all the things you actually can do … typically can wait if you are honest to yourself. Certainly I want to be reachable (by my family and friends) and read my (private) mails, so I have a private smartphone and do not mix up things.

Enjoy your return

After your return, enjoy that not everything might have worked as smoothly as people are used to, that they are happy that you are back, and that you have been missed. I mean, come on, this is perfect … you can look forward coming back to office. Could really be worse.

Finally, I would like to share a personal piece of experience with you. In more than 20 years of working life, about ten of those running my own business with being the key contact for all clients, there has not been a single situation where my short-term action was really needed. A proactive absence management assumed.

Honestly spoken, for many years I was fatally wrong in thinking that my general availability would be vital. And it took me some time to learn that (at least felt) being approachable and indispensable during vacation with your family and kids is just an unmasking sign of bad (self-)management.

Fortunately, there is always room for development …

About self-perception

An almost real story

Recently, I was sitting in in my new family doctor’s waiting room.

A copy of his license to practice was hanging at the wall, showing his full name. The name instantly reminded me of a former classmate, at those times, 20 years ago, a rather wiry and long-haired guy.

But when I met the doc, I immediately dismissed the thought. This well-fed, grey-haired man with his knobbly nose was far too old for haven been in my school class.

Nevertheless, after the examination I asked him, if he eventually visited the same school as I. “Yes”, he told me. So, I continued “Which year did you graduate from high-school?” He answered “1987! Why?” “Well, you have been in my class”, I replied. He attentively looked at me … finally asking: “And which subject did you teach?”

 

based on “Leicht verschätzt” by Peter Kottlorz

Appreciate yourself!

Well … honestly spoken … I appreciate myself. Not always. But again and again. And I admit to enjoying it.

I appreciate myself for minor and major  achievements. Every time something worked as planned. Every time I kept milestones and budget … or even overachieved. Then, I am as pleased as Punch, deeply proud of myself, and I inwardly tell myself: “Well done, Christian!”

No, I do not miss appreciation by others. Most of the time I have been very fortunate having fellows and leaders, who acknowledged and esteemed my contribution … and myself. Hence, I always felt privileged. I never took it as granted, and I know that many others have to go without appreciation by others.

But especially then it is even more important to honor yourself, to self-appreciate your performance. For me, the joy about my own success goes along with self-respect; the value I give myself.

Frankly spoken, for quite a long time I thought that it would be absolutely common being pleased about own successes. A natural element of intrinsic motivation. Praise has been proven to be the best motivator. By praising myself I motivate myself. And that is how it also always felt for me. And over the years it carried me through various difficult situations.

Meanwhile I have learned that self-appreciation is by far common and generally understood. From time to time I meet people having a serious problem with appreciating themselves, appreciating their own performance.

But I think we agree that most successes are earned through hard work and are not to be taken as granted. For that reason, it should be well justified being proud of any single success. Not the narcissistic,  foppish type of self-praise … but the well-deserved inward self-appreciation for a real performance. No pride which is exaggerating the own person. But joy because you successfully delivered.

If I do not appreciate myself and my achievements … why should others do?