Working outside - 2

Are you procrastinating about crafting an auto-response “Out of Office” e-mail to let small business customers and associates know that you’re heading out for a summer holiday? As much as you need a vacation – and your family and close friends are strongly encouraging you to take one – it’s not easy to take a break from the business.

If you are on the fence about leaving, consider that there are advantages to getting away from your small business besides the obvious value of taking time to relax and de-stress.  Breaks enable your mind to reset and refocus to produce high quality work.  They also enable you to:

  • Get a fresh perspective: Take time to think about changing market requirements or new customer needs, which is difficult to do when you are mired in the everyday details of running your business.
  • Let others take on more:  Watch how your team grows when you take things off your plate and pass them onto others. You’ll benefit from having less pressure and your team will benefit from taking on new responsibilities and expanding their opportunities.
  • Find out what isn’t working:  Sometimes getting away is a good way to find out what is working and what isn’t.  You’ll discover what processes or systems need to be fixed or adjusted.

Once you’ve committed to getting away, here are some of the things you’ll want to do to make sure it’s business as usual while you are gone:

Get current: You don’t want to come back to pressing issues. Before you head out, pay bills that are coming due. Don’t initiate any new projects – unless you can’t put them off – and make sure you have arranged for needed supplies or inventory, so that your small business doesn’t run short or soon will after you return. If you are considering any changes in IT, such as switching your Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) to hosted or on-premise VoIP or moving data and applications to the cloud, don’t start making inquiries before you leave. Wait until you come back refreshed to investigate options.

Delegate your work: Before you head out, work out with your team who is in charge and what responsibilities others will need to take on in your absence. Make it clear how much authority your team has to make decisions relative to internal and customers issues while you are gone. Establish priorities and convey your expectations.

Provide a status update:  In order that everyone can do their job and yours, update team members on the status of projects, customer needs and any other business dealings that are in progress. This will eliminate surprises and prepare the appropriate people to knowledgeably answer questions and act in your absence.

Inform clients: Let customers know you will be gone and direct them to one of your team to contact in your absence.

Work if you must but stick to a schedule

If you decide you can’t completely decouple from your small business on vacation, decide how much time you want to spend and stick to your plan. For example, you may arrange to be available a few hours every morning for a quick team update or to answer pressing questions. If you already employ cloud-based storage and document sharing, you can set aside time every day to check or edit documents. Let your team know your schedule so they can plan accordingly to insure work is completed to meet deadlines.

In addition to arranging a conference call from your mobile device, using a noise-canceling headset so that background noise won’t hang up communication, consider video chat.  If you don’t have a Unified Communications platform, such as Skype for Business or Avaya Scopia, which include video conferencing capabilities; you can take advantage of free services such as Google Hangouts or FaceTime.

Of course, if there is an emergency, you’ll want to know about it. If you’ve prepped your team appropriately, they should be able to handle most anything with long distance guidance from you

So go ahead, set up your Out of Office reply and pack your bags. Prepare your team to take over so you can have a great time worry free.