When it comes to vacation time, CIOs aren’t fully committed, according to healthsystemCIO.com’s July Snap Survey, which found that although most CIOs take time off, few are able to truly disconnect.
In the survey, 93 percent indicated they had taken — or plan to take — a vacation this year. However, nearly 90 percent admit to checking email while out of the office, with 38 percent logging in once a day, and almost half (48 percent) logging in several times a day.
For some CIOs, sorting through emails during vacation can help avoid the “avalanche of work” often waiting upon return, as one respondent put it. Another noted, “It’s difficult to get away, and unfortunately the work piles up, so the refreshment from being away quickly turns into a scramble to get back on top of things.”
On a more positive note, CIOs feel its imperative to encourage staff members to use their allotted time off, with 55 percent stating they don’t expect any response from staffers who are contacted while out of the office, and 45 percent indicating that a reply is expected — but only in urgent matters. A critical step toward ensuring that both leaders and staff are able to remain unplugged is succession planning, according to one CIO, who stated, “If you’ve clearly identified a number two, you train your number two, and you build a simple rule that says ‘one of us has to be here all the time,’ you can actually go on vacation.”
Overall, CIOs believe getting away is critical — even if it’s only for a short time. One respondent noted that the department has implemented a rule banning eating at the desk to encourage staffers to take a proper lunch break. “It is important to get away from your desk to change your perspective every day — not just on vacation.”
Finally, the majority (65 percent) of respondents reported feeling refreshed after returning from vacation, although many were on the fence, noting that playing catch-up upon return can negate the effects of time away.
(SnapSurveys are answered by the healthsystemCIO.com CIO Advisory Panel.)
1. Are you planning to go on vacation this year, or have you already taken time off?
- I’ve already taken two weeks of vacation.
- It is necessary to my sanity.
- Taking separate one-week vacations.
- This year’s vacation will encompass moving the family to Georgia. Not sure if that constitutes a vacation, but it will be time away from my paid job (I was going to say work, but that just didn’t feel right).
- Yes, for two weeks starting July 29.
- It’s difficult to get away, and unfortunately the work piles up, so the refreshment from being away quickly turns into a scramble to get back on top of things.
- Took a week back in April.
- I try to spread three weeks over the year with one week reserved in a single block and “totally off the grid.”
I’m not sure
- Workload is extremely heavy. I am concerned about taking time off, mostly based on an assumption of facing an avalanche of work upon return to the office.
2. How frequently do you check e-mail while on vacation?
Several times a day
- CEO expects email replies.
- But only when it’s convenient for me.
- All accept for one off-the-grid week, I am nearly as connected as if I were in the office. I don’t engage as much, but stay aware.
- Breakfast and dinner.
About once a day
- This last week of vacation was unusual. Most of the time, I only check twice during the week.
- I may not be able to check frequently because I’m traveling abroad.
- Email is a scourge, but with 300-400 messages a day, if I don’t keep up it becomes impossible. As an additional insult, I only need to see about 10 percent of that.
- I would say two to three times a day. I still usually check in a.m., and quickly check later in the day.
About once a week
- Depends on available time and what is going on at work.
- That’s why they call it vacation. I have capable staff. This is not a one person show; your staff must be able to step up or you haven’t sufficiently empowered them.
- However, this year was unusual in taking a completely unplugged vacation.
3. Do you encourage your staff to take time off?
Yes, I think it makes them better employees
- Sometimes people need to be off the most when we’re so busy, but if they don’t take time off, you begin to get diminishing returns on their work.
- It is strongly encouraged and is part of review discussion.
- Yes, but not a lot. We’re too busy for staff to take their full five weeks in the case of long-term managers.
- I believe it is very important and healthy for all.
- Yes, absolutely.
- Wish I could do more, but I have all chosen a profession that has extremely high time demands, and there are times that I have had modify their time away plans.
- We have a hospital wide initiative to get paid time off the books, so we are encouraging our staff to take time.
No, it’s none of my business
No, we’ve got so much to do that I can’t bring myself to encourage it
4. Do you ever contact staff members while they’re on vacation?
Yes, and I expect them to respond
Yes, but I only expect a response for urgent matters (and I make that clear)
- As rarely as I can get away with it — only for extremely urgent matters.
- For me, it’s often “do as I say, not as I do.” I’m very good about making my direct reports really take time off when they’re of — no email, no phone calls, if at all possible. A big part of this, I’ve found, is succession planning for department leaders. If you’ve clearly identified a number two, you train your number two, and you build a simple rule that says “one of us has to be here all the time,” you can actually go on vacation!
- It has to be for a truly critical need that only they have the answer for and it simply cannot wait until they return.
- Very rarely.
- I try to avoid it at all costs.
- I don’t want to be contacted, and I don’t contact them.
- I don’t believe in doing so unless it is a real emergency. Even then, I would hesitate.
- I suppose there might be rare occasions where this would be necessary, but generally, when staff are away, they should really be away.
- I CC my staff while on vacation so they are abreast of discussions when they return.
- Do not disturb is in effect.
5. Do you feel refreshed after returning from vacation?
- Depends on what the time off activity is. It also helps to really take weekends periodically that do not involve any sort of work.
- Really, it is a mixed bag. I enjoy the time as long as I go in wide-eyed. There will be stuff to hurry and do before you leave and stuff to do to catch up, but I think at the end of the day, it pays off to escape. I even have a ‘no eating at your desk rule’ in the department so people get up and take a lunch break. It is important to get away from your desk to change your perspective EVERY DAY — not just on vacation. Even if you wolf something down in 15 minutes and come back to your desk, it’s good.
- Physically yes, but I dread catching up on email, voice mail, and problems/projects. Nice to clear email and voice mail before returning.
- Yes, at least to some degree. The biggest challenge is often trying to find the “slow time” that’s the best time to go on vacation. For CIOs these days, there’s no such thing as a slow time.
- I enjoy getting away and spending quality time with my best friend (my wife). However, the catching up when I get back is a little stressful.
- I do a fair amount of work while on vacation, but it’s still rejuvenating to be in a different location doing ‘vacation’ things!
- The week that I am totally discounted I return from most refreshed — but the most slammed with what ‘feels’ like a zillion communications to come to terms with… as soon as I walk in the door.
- Yes and no. Yes, I feel refreshed. But then the stress sets in and wipes out the refreshed feeling.
- I make sure of it.
No, there is so much catching up to do that taking time off is more stressful than working
- I think my answer lies more in the middle. I can feel refreshed if I have checked and moved emails into a separate folder during the week. I create three folders — high, normal, and low. As I check emails during the week, I move them into one of those areas.
- Usually, but there are issues I’d rather deal with on a five-minute call then unwinding two weeks later.