When it comes to CIOs carving out time for vacations, a great deal of progress has been made in the past few years, according to the August healthsystemCIO.com SnapSurvey, which found that 97 percent of respondents said they have taken or plan to take time off this year, compared to 92 percent in 2014.
Another promising sign is that 32 percent said they check in several times a day during their vacation, down from 38 percent two years ago. Thirty-five percent check in about once or twice a day, and 29 percent once or twice a week.
So what’s been the catalyst for CIOs being able to unplug a little more? Having a strong team in place. “If you hire a good team and not micromanage them, they will be just fine without you for a time,” said one respondent. And it isn’t just about hiring the right people, but trusting them to make decisions. “If I cannot take a week away without things falling apart, they should fire me,” noted one CIO. “Not checking in empowers my talented leaders to make decisions and solve problems, further advancing their executive function and development.
Part of that trust includes educating the staff on what types of situation merit a phone call or email. That could mean “dooms day scenarios,” as one respondent put it, or simply developing contingency plans and response protocols for how the staff can address an issue. “We are seeking to become a more proactive IT organization rather than reactive,” the respondent said.
Finally, CIOs are making vacations part of the culture — not just by taking time themselves, but by encouraging the staff to do so as well. Some do this through one-on-one conversations, and some address the topic during meetings.
The bottom line is that savvy CIOs are realizing that being able to unplug and recharge must play a key role their strategy if they want to keep moving the organization forward.
(SnapSurveys are answered by the healthsystemCIO.com CIO Advisory Panel. To go directly to a full-size version of any individual chart, click on that chart.)
1. Have you taken any vacation time this year (3 or more consecutive days), or do you plan to?
- I have taken two one-week vacations.
- I’m new to role and included the time away in my onboarding process. Will be more difficult over time.
- Even with everything going on, I do try to take vacation.
- If you hire a good team and not micromanage them, they will be just fine without you for a time.
- I took a week in January and have another week planned for October.
- Planning two weeks in October
I’m not sure
2. Do you find it difficult to justify taking time off?
Yes, it’s a very busy time
- We have a major EMR implementation in progress, so taking a large block of time off is not always possible.
- Even though things are always busy, a vacation is needed.
No, I think it’s vital to have time away
- I just need to plan around board meetings and major implementations.
- It’s vital to have time away; however, it’s impossible to be 100 percent disconnected.
- I struggle with the duration, not taking time. Should it be one week or two?
Several times a day
- It actually makes vacation better knowing things are being handled.
About once or twice a day
- Things stack up too much if I don’t
- I check email daily to try and avoid getting hit with a lot of mail upon return.
- About once or twice a week
- It depends. Sometimes I disconnect completely, and other times I check in first thing in the morning on a day or two just to know what is going on
- On the first day or two to wrap up any loose ends, then unplug.
- I have an outstanding team. If I cannot take a week away without things falling apart, they should fire me. Not checking in empowers my talented leaders to make decisions and solve problems, further advancing their executive function and development.
4. Before leaving for vacation, do you clearly communicate to your staff what types of scenarios merit a phone call or email to you during your vacation?
Yes, I think that’s important
- I have a great staff. They know that they can reach me for anything, but normally reach out to me for critical issues.
- We have three to four “dooms day scenarios” that warrant finding me. Otherwise, we try to develop contingency plans in advance, having response protocols for a wide variety of scenarios. We are seeking to become a more proactive IT organization rather than reactive.
No, but I probably should
No, because my staff already knows where I stand
- My staff know when they need to reach out to me, and because they are competent, that rarely happens.
5. Does the stress of returning affect your ability to relax and rejuvenate?
Yes, I know I’ll have a mountain of emails/tasks to attend do
- Among the key reasons why a 100 percent disconnect is not possible.
Somewhat, but it’s still worth it to get away
- Catching up on emails takes the most time.
Not at all
- The stress is certainly there, but I’ll let it bother me when I return, and not before.
- I block out the first day back to catch up
- The stress is about the same whether it is returning after a vacation or after a weekend.
6. Do you encourage your staff to use their vacation days, and if so, how?
- We plan for cross coverage so they can go.
- I encourage them to schedule time and take it.
- I approve requests, tell then to take some down time.
- Yes, I do, with advance vacation schedules.
- Absolutely — track specific days used/remaining.
- I monitor vacation day balances.
- Yes, most know when it is or is not OK to take off.
- Yes, and encourage them not to check in while away.
- Yes; schedule time with up/down channel coverage.
- Not directly.
- This is a county hospital so it’s never a problem.
- The maximum amount that is available.
- I tell them they are models for their reports.
- Mostly during one-on-ones.
- Primarily via one-on-one discussions.
- Yes, we discuss a balanced approach to work.
- Yes, any way they can, from long weekends on up.
- They take all the time they get!
- I have almost never denied vacation requests
- Yes I do, and I help them plan to unplug.
- I encourage two weeks a year, at one time!
- Yes, I also tell them to get off the grid.
- We limit PTO carry over to 40 hours.
- I remind them that family is more important.
- I encourage them to use all they have.
- We discuss it frequently.