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Travel Quest — Vacation overload

Since getting back from a work trip a few weeks ago, I’ve been asking myself a question.  Before I pose my deep, philosophical question, I need to build up a bit of a framework.

As a person who’s job description does not include constant travel, when I leave the office for vacation or a business trip, it should be a refreshing change of pace and not a hassle.  I get to have new surroundings and break up the monotony a bit.

While on the road, all is cheery, I’m meeting new people and seeing new things.  My out of office auto-reply is on, letting everyone know that I won’t be able to respond until a future date.  Isn’t that one of the greatest technological inventions?  It’s a legitimate Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to response time!    Beyond the joy of having a Get Out of Jail Free card, problems that would normally fall on my desk can either make themselves very cozy while I’m away or find someone else to resolve them (preference goes to the latter).  My regular work responsibilities?  I have none!

Or that’s what it feels like.  Until I came back.

I’m not sure where I think all those phone messages or emails are going.  You’d think after this happened numerous times, I would be more realistic about  the mess that will be waiting for me when I return.  But if you’re thinking that, you may want to reassess.  Every time is a shocker for me.  When I returned home from Jamaica last week, I was again struck by the large number of emails and phone messages for me.

To get my head above water again, I spent numerous nights burning the midnight oil.  It was during one of these late nights that I started wondering…  What is the purpose of getting away if it means you’ll have all of your accumulated work in addition to your regular work with no additional time?  If there were a math equation for this, I would imagine it to be something along these lines:

(Regular workload + Out of office workload )/8 hours =  Impossible

One should keep in mind that I work with my family so citing the federal government’s overtime statutes doesn’t quite cut it.  Plus, I’m salaried.

While my co-workers help me out by answering questions and fielding calls, the pile of work that builds up when I’m away is substantial.  I work on the operations side of our host agency in a position that is a bit too varied for my co-workers to be able to step in.  I’m curious what other agents with specialized roles in small companies do when they’re away.

Perhaps if you’re up late burning the midnight oil, we could keep each other company.

Stephanie Lee works in Operations at Travel Quest, a host agency out of MN with over 200+ home-based travel agents.  She graduated from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University with a degree in Environmental Studies/Liberal Studies.  She was awarded ASTA Young Professional of the Year in 2008 and was named one of Travel Agent’s “30 under 30” in 2009.  She can be reached at Stephanie@TQagents.com, via Google+, or 800.392.6484.  For more information on Travel Quest visit www.TQagents.com or www.facebook.com/TQagents

Comments to this article are welcomed and encouraged, please utilize the comment form below so we can all learn and interact with each other!

  7 thoughts on “Travel Quest — Vacation overload

  1. I hear you, Stephanie, but as a co-owner of a boutique agency/tour operator, I burn the midnight oil 24/7/365 anyway, so I have to appreciate “vacations” for the change of scene and learning experience they offer. Re-entry is always painful! Still, I wouldn’t miss the adventure regardless of stacks of mail, messages and emails awaiting my return.

  2. I work for a small company (a tour operator) and, like you, I am salaried. I also wear many hats. My main one is in Operations, doing a variety of tasks, but I also work with some clients on specialized tours. Many of the tasks I perform are only done by me; so usually noone else in the office handles my issues while I am away. However, I may have an advantage you may not have. In our industry, we have “seasons.” For the most part, our groups travel between February and June. So, during that time, I dare not catch a cold or have a snow day, let alone take a vacation. In July, we clean up from our season, and in August we prepare our brochure and sales staff for the following season. So, I take all of my trips between September and December (when we are preparing for our upcoming travel season), and I never go for more than 1.5 weeks at a time. I still have work waiting for me when I return, but none of it is so critical as to keep me here until midnight. Incidentally, I have worked many nights until midnight while “In season” (which almost feels like “In country” sometimes); so it doesn’t matter if we leave or stay — the work is always there, with or without us!

  3. CJ Patchell says:

    Well, of course no one else could possibly do the tasks we do . . . or could they? After all, we learned to do what we do, we weren’t born travel professionals! While no could step fully into our shoes, how about a toe or two worth? Teach specific tasks to others and have them take on the load while you are gone. By dividing up our multifaceted only-I-know-how-to-do-my-job job, we can prevent the backlog from burying us alive. Let’s face it, none of us is truly irreplaceable. If no one else knows our job, we represent a potential business disaster for our small companies. What if we get hit by a bus, squashed by a meteor, or abducted by aliens? Our agency will still be expected to open for business and carry on without us. This scenario is an opportunity for a small business to seriously look an a vital and neglected aspect of business: succession planning. Who is going to take over what position and are they being trained/groomed/schooled for the tasks they will face if someone suddenly is not there? If someone is truly irreplaceable in the organization, that represents a weakness that could bring the business to a standstill in the event that person leaves, for whatever reason. The vacation delegation exercises can help begin the process of ensuring that our agency doesn’t just wither up and die for lack of one key individual should they be unable to come to work the next day, the next week, or the next month.

  4. Steph Lee says:

    Couldn’t agree more– love the travel, hate the piled up reality that is there upon you your return! 🙂

  5. Steph Lee says:

    Oh, and great point CJ about the succession planning. Not something a lot of people may consider until they learn the hard way. I’m hoping I don’t get hit by a bus when I go but meteor/alien wouldn’t be too bad since I am a huge astronomy fan!

  6. Jamison (Jamie) Bachrach says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I enjoyed reading your article. I feel this way everytime I go away and I am a one man band, so I do not have someone to fall back on.. so, I am attached to the almighty Blackberry. At least I do not plan to bring my laptop on the next trip I am on. Fun writing these articles, isn’t it?

  7. Steph Lee says:

    Hey Jamie, sure is fun! One of my hobbies so it’s nice to mix work with pleasure. I’m not attached to a Blackberry, but just as bad- my Android Cliq! 🙂

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