Here is a short list to help you stay at least partially electronically connected while you make an effort to become physically and mentally disconnected:
It wasn’t many years ago when calling in to the office every couple of days from vacation to talk to a secretary or check your voicemail made you a responsible and dedicated employee. In today’s demanding world of 24X7 communication with pagers, cell phones, instant messaging, and Web access, the expectations are much higher.
Now that August is upon us and many people are taking vacations it is an opportune time to focus on staying connected or at least partially connected while on vacation. You will still call the office and check your voicemail, but you should also do much more. Here is a short list to help you stay at least partially electronically connected while you make an effort to become physically and mentally disconnected.
1. Enable your email system’s away message. Most popular email packages have settings for selecting and enabling an away message on the mail server. An away message sends a response to email you receive stating that you are out of the office. The text of the message is something you can write yourself. Many people say when they will be back in the office or provide an alternative point of contact. The idea is to notify the sender of the email that you may not see or respond to the email right away. One problem with this is that when you subscribe to newsletters, the sender may think that your away message is an error. If you are really tech savvy and your software supports it, you can add the newsletter as an exception and not send back an away response.
2. Provide a way for people to contact you, even if it is not instant. Everyone takes a vacation now and then and most people understand that if you are away they may not get instant access to you. But many people still need to give you a message, provide you with information, or ask you a question even if the response is not instant. Give these people a method to contact you even if it will take a few days to respond.
3. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a secretary or colleague. Let someone in the office know where you will be and how to contact you just in case something unexpected happens.
4. Synchronize your electronic contact manager and calendar before you leave. This may be with a Palm Pilot or a laptop. You will want to have your contacts and your latest calendar with you when you are answering email or voicemail.
5. Get a laptop if possible. If you have a laptop, that’s great. If not, many organizations have a few laptops that can be used by people going on vacation or on a business trip. See if one is available for your use. Check to make sure it has a modem installed and try dialing into your modem pool or your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
6. Test the modem before leaving town. Check your laptop dial-in for web access and for email access to your account. You, or someone on your IT staff, may need to change some of the mail settings to match your firm’s systems. If your firm’s email is not available through a web browser, you can get a free email account at any number of providers such as Hotmail.com, Yahoo!, or even WashingtonPost.com. You can then set your email to forward from your office account to one that you can access while on vacation. Before you do this however, talk to your IT staff about security provisions and ask for their recommendations.
7. If you will be dialing your ISP for access, get the local dial-in numbers for your destinations. They should be available from the ISP’s Web site. If you have a local-only ISP, you may want to consider changing or adding a national or international ISP depending on how long you will be gone and what the long distance phone charges may be.
8. If you do not have a laptop or a computer at your destination, all is not lost. There are lots of free or low cost ways to get access to the Internet. Most public libraries have computers set up for Web access. Colleges and Universities also frequently offer free Internet access from their libraries or computer centers. There are cyber cafes in many cities with free or cheap Web access. Malls and computer stores often offer free access provided by a local ISP as an advertisement. Many airports and hotels offer Web access for a small fee. And if all else fails, you can ask your host if you can use their computer to access the Web.
9. Travelling overseas brings other complications. If you are travelling overseas remember that most of the rest of the world uses different cell phone technology than North America, so your cell phone will likely not work. Regular telephone usage in many countries is paid by the minute even for local calls, so keep your dial-in connections short even if you have a local access number that works. In addition, remember that much of the world uses 220 watt power and you will need to make sure your laptop and other computer devices run on 220 (most do) and get the proper adapters for the countries you will be visiting.
Now that you are fully prepared to keep in touch while away, take that vacation and rest assured that for just a few minutes a day, you can stay connected to the world you tried to leave behind.