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Can't disconnect on vacation? These IT pros offer their hard-earned tips

Kacy Zurkus | June 29, 2015
We've all done it. Sworn to stay completely uncoupled from the office during a vacation, only to check email and get drawn into a work issue -- going from relaxed to tensed up in minutes.

"If I'm going to take a full week or even two-week vacation, it's during the school year," he says. "Summer is especially difficult for those who work IT in K-12 because it's the time to do major projects and updates that will be least disruptive."

When he does get away, Piazza monitors his phone and email because he wants to stay on top of any problems that escalate, but he also wants the peace of mind that comes from knowing everything is running smoothly.

Having a primary contact person and making sure the entire team knows the emergency protocols are two other steps that help put Piazza at ease. "The first contact is the customer service manager, who oversees the help desk and dispatches technicians to deal with customer issues in the classroom," he says.

And because Piazza is part of a team of three people who each have different skill sets, the organization is exploring cross-training options.

3. Trust your team

Randy Kuehntopp, vice president of IT at healthcare services provider ProNerve, says vacations boost his overall productivity. But he adds that it took time for him to learn how to step away from work.

"If you're having a hard time disconnecting, you're probably doing something wrong," says Kuehntopp, who explains that although he does give a few people the ability to contact him in case of emergency, he doesn't check in at all while he's on vacation. Instead, he puts his trust in a talented and reliable team that can deal with critical issues in his absence.

The same is true for Jennifer Minella, vice president of engineering at Carolina Advanced Digital in Cary, N.C., who admits that learning to disconnect was a process of changing her habits and mindset.

"I'd tell myself that I was just going to check my mail to stay ahead of the curve and delete the junk," she says. "But checking it wasn't putting me ahead, it was putting me behind."

Minella says her process for ensuring that everything runs smoothly in her absence has three elements: preparation, team and mindset.

The preparation includes setting her email to auto-reply to start notifying partners, customers and colleagues that she'll be out of the office a few days or even a week before she actually goes away.

And she relies on her team to handle critical situations. "It's important to be surrounded by people you trust, to be able to offload and to enable them to make authorizations in your absence," Minella says.

But above all, unplugging requires a change in mindset. That means "being OK with not staying on top of things," she says. "In our heads we always think we are working." But in fact it's the time we spend not working that might be just the break we need.


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