Yesterday I did an episode on taking a stay-cation. In this episode, I want to take it a step further. You see, not only do I want you to walk away understanding that you need to take time away from work for your mental health, to build up and develop your team, but I also want you to understand that when you do take time off, you must truly be off. Ultimately, working while on PTO puts you at risk both personally and professionally.
Imagine you are sitting by a pool, an adult beverage in hand, a good book on your lap, and your family just left for a few minutes. They are coming back in about 10 minutes or so but you have a few minutes to yourself. You are smiling. Happy. At peace because of the time away from work. You look at your phone and you think, “Let me just take a quick look to see what is going on at work.” So you pick up your phone and as you are scanning your emails, you see communication back and forth about an issue. It’s not an urgent issue, it’s just a standard business issue.
Feeling generous, you decide to reply and give a few pointers on how to handle the situation. You whip out the email, hit send, put the phone down, and smile. You feel accomplished like you helped the team out and now you are back to your vacation. It’s a perfect day.
But let’s just take a look at that perfect day for a second. The generosity, in your mind, that you displayed actually could cause problems for your and your team.
First, because you answered, the team now feels like they can continue to ask for your input, seek advice, guidance, etc. They don’t want to mess up, so now they are going to run everything by you in this situation. Bye-bye vacation time.
Second, let’s say they didn’t want to keep asking you questions, instead they assume you are now taking over fixing the issue. You did respond to the group after all so you took control of the situation being the senior leader. Instead of continuing to resolve the issue, they go back to their daily work with the assumption you are handling it all. So nothing gets fixed with you back to family time by the pool.
Even worse, let’s say you work for someone else, you’re not the business owner, and they see you respond. They may directly ask you to take control of the situation, so you have definitely lost your vacation time for the day, maybe even longer.
Last but not least, how do you know your advice was sound and complete? Your brain is on vacation time. You are drinking and enjoying your time away, as you should. But the point here is that those two worlds should not mix. Your judgment is impaired, even without the drinks, because your mind isn’t focused on work. You could be giving poor advice or even incomplete advice for the issue itself.
Are you starting to see all of the issues and risks?
In my career, I removed a direct report from his role because of the work he did while on PTO. He had an issue in one of his businesses, he decided to be generous and show up to help with the situation. He didn’t fully follow protocol, he was picking and choosing how he helped out because “he was on PTO.” I removed him and explained to him that the minute he decided walked through that door and decided to put himself in the center of helping to resolve that issue, he became responsible for fully executing the company protocols and policies. It didn’t matter if he was on PTO or not. He made a decision to help. Once you decide to help, you have to do so completely. He didn’t do that so he lost his position.
It’s plain and simple to me. If you are on vacation or PTO, go be on vacation or PTO. Don’t be generous, be safe.