As I wait for beachfront hotel prices to go down …

So I was sitting at the mechanic’s this morning, reading the WaPo, when this article whacked me over the head.

“Before Vacation, An Out-of-Office Experience”

As someone who rarely if ever takes vacations (as most of my disposable income is spent on retail therapy and, yes, car-related issues), I admit that I hate taking any time off. Because it seems like you’re already working X number of hours per week (X = a number greater than 40), but in preparation of skipping town (even for work-related reasons), that X variable increases by at least a third.

I’ve left the office past 10 p.m. and often lamented having to actually deduct eight hours of vacation time from the next day on my timesheet. I say this tongue-in-cheek, because I am also of the attitude of “What can you do?” but there’s a part of me that wonders how you can ever get that time back. But there’s a greater part of me that still doesn’t get everything done and frets about it during my “off” time.

Sometimes, I feel like mental vacations (i.e., those taken on the clock) are the only real reprieve we ever really get.

“Pre-vacation exhaustion and disengagement” is what some psychologists call it. Employers call it other names.

There’s also something interesting in the article that made me actually mentally pat myself on the back.

Leisure experts (now there’s a job that probably doesn’t suffer pre-vacation issues) have been saying for years that a brain is a terrible thing to waste by working on vacation. Now some management consultants are embracing those pre-vacation wind-down days as the natural order of things. Even suggesting that smart managers should spring for a half-day off — on the house– that last day, sending good workers packing a few hours early. And here’s a little extra spending money, too!

One thing I believed in with my staff was when to “say when,” just on their behalf. Not just telling them to take a day off, but by reviewing their performance and saying, hey look. You kill yourself for the company. You put in more hours than a person has a right to. You’re only paid for eight of them in a given day, and in three days, you’ve worked a standard workweek. Here’s a comp day or two — don’t tell my supervisor, but use ’em and get your ass rested up for the next big thing.

I had loyal employees. I bent some rules to make their escapes better, and I didn’t happen to mention to my higher-ups that I was being less-than-strict with their time reporting. Even though the favor would never be returned for me (gah, the time I took one extra bereavement day about six jobs ago, it was downright heresy, as apparently a grandparent who helped to raise you still only gets you one day off), that’s what made me the way I was.

I never needed my staff to be in love with me. I wanted them to know I respected them as humans and wanted them to not show up frazzled and minus half the crap they needed for their vacations. Lord knows we didn’t pay them anything that a normal human could live off of — it didn’t kill me or anybody in the company to do something small to make for a happy employee.

Besides, It sucks to be doing laundry at 1 a.m. when you’re catching a plane at 7 a.m. This is why people bicker when they travel together — it’s nothing more than one set of overworked nerves bitching at the other for forgetting something the first person should have remembered and would have, had they not been cramming in four days’ worth of work into one.

Here’s my favorite part of the article. Excuse me while I laugh my head off, as a $50 gas card will get you to the airport, but it’s a thoughtful gesture nonetheless:

Dan Surface, a national business consultant and management trainer based in Fort Wayne, Ind., says he’s so sympathetic to folks struggling through their last day of work that he thinks bosses ought to give them a $50 gas card and wish them well on their way out the door.

I dig that, as kind of a “don’t call us, and we won’t call you” vote of confidence. I get downright vicious when someone’s on vacation and someone else suggests calling them. (It has to be a panic attack moment for me to do that.) Why? Because if the employee who’s away is being contacted, who’s to say I won’t be? And not that I’d mind — I don’t want people to struggle in my absence. But we all have different definitions of crisis, and the only crisis I want to handle is being mad that I got the yellow umbrella in my drink instead of the purple one. …

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