Why finance professionals should take a vacation, and not feel guilty

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The pace of work in the financial sector can be all-consuming, making out-of-office breaks essential if you want to avoid burnout. But, if you’re like many people who have earned vacation time, you may not be taking advantage of it.

One-third of professionals don’t believe they have enough vacation time, according to our recent vacation survey – 41% said they had not taken a vacation or had taken fewer days off because of concerns about the amount of work that would await them when they returned.

In finance, intense competition is the norm, so you may find it especially difficult to take time off to disconnect from work. Even when you’re officially “out of office,” the lines between work and personal time can blur due to 24/7 availability thanks to smart phones.

In fact, 41% of survey respondents said they check in with the office at least once or twice a week while on holiday. Among workers between the ages of 18 and 34, the urge to stay connected was even greater – 36% said they check in once or twice a day while out of the office.

Dedication to work is key to your success in the financial sector, as long as you don’t overdo it. Taking a break from your inbox and smartphone provides a chance to restore your energy and recharge. To accomplish this, you’ll need to clearly lay out how your responsibilities will be handled while you’re enjoying yourself by the pool.

Preparing for departure: a pre-vacation checklist

The key to enjoying your out-of-office break is to prepare well in advance. Providing plenty of prior notice of your plans will help your colleagues and manager plan for your absence. You’ll want to step away from your work responsibilities knowing that you’ve covered all possible contingencies.

Here are five things that should be on your pre-vacation checklist:

  • Choose dates carefully. Time your vacation during a period when work is traditionally slow. After a big project wraps up or before a new one begins are generally good times to take a break. In the finance industry, professionals often schedule vacations during August – the most likely time for a lull in activity in both the United States and Europe. Accountants often time their breaks around fixed activities, such as tax cycles and scheduled audits.
  • Scope out the work. Identify projects that will need attention while you’re away. This is a good time to delegate. Be sure to hand off tasks a few days in advance of your scheduled leave in case there are questions for you to answer.
  • Designate a point person. Choose a responsible colleague who is ready and willing to make decisions when you are out of the office. Explain where information is stored and how it is organized in case the point person needs it while you’re gone.
  • Make your vacation plans known. Be sure clients and customers who depend on you know that you plan to be away. Set up an out-of-office message as an automatic reply to any emails you receive during your absence.
  • Scale down your commitments. If possible, reduce the amount of meetings and activities to which you’re committed the days before your departure. This allows time for you to take care of last-minute requests.

The benefits of taking time off

Developing a thorough out-of-office plan will go a long way toward calming pre-vacation nervousness. For your plan to be effective, you’ll need to be confident that the organization you work for supports you in taking vacation time.

Policies at many companies have shifted toward promoting taking time off because it plays an important role in achieving work-life balance and helps productivity. But in the day-to-day scrum that is life in the finance industry, some managers may focus more on achieving immediate goals than honoring your out-of-office requests.

Managers play a key role in communicating the importance of taking time off to recharge. If your manager rarely takes time out of the office or checks in frequently while on vacation, it does not mean that you should do the same.

As long as you plan in advance and respect the needs of your team, you’re actually doing both yourself and your organization a favor by taking time off. Your well-planned vacation will enable you to bring renewed energy and enthusiasm to your work when you return.

Bill Driscoll is the New England district president of Robert Half. He serves as a national spokesperson for Accountemps and oversees professional staffing services for Robert Half’s 23 offices throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and parts of New York.

Photo credit: moodboard/GettyImages

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