Business Monday

It’s getting harder for employees and CEOs to disconnect while on vacation


This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Should employees stay connected while on vacation? What is the expectation among your employees?


We encourage our staff and brokers to take vacations, rest their minds, and come back to work refreshed and with creative energy. Our brokers work very closely with clients and have the considerable responsibility to ensure the clients’ business is well taken care of. Therefore, we work in teams so that when one team member is away, there is always someone available who is fully informed and prepared to address any client needs at hand.

Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young


This is a very tough question. Fundamentally, I think that employees should disconnect – leaving a great support system and back up plan in place because as we know, the business continues to operate. I love when my employees completely disconnect. The caveat is that I never do. Therefore, I have set the precedent for employees to feel like they cannot disconnect. I have to learn to do a better job at this so that my team can truly follow my lead.

Adelee Cabrera, regional director, Starr Catering Group


I think it’s important for a vacation to truly be a vacation. This means different things to different people — some prefer to stay connected rather than dealing with hundreds of emails upon their return. I want my staff to disconnect and enjoy their precious vacation time, but how connected they want to be, above and beyond emergencies, is ultimately up to them.

Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida


Our attorneys recognize that client issues don’t always arise at the most convenient times of day or week, and that there must be ways to service their needs whether we are in the office or not. Fortunately, technology allows us the ability to take time away with our families while still remaining connected to address those needs directly or with the assistance of a colleague.

Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg


At Memorial Healthcare System, we value work and life balance. It is not expected in our organization to stay connected while on vacation or during time off; however, we also recognize that it may be tough to disconnect given the ease and access to technologies. I realize it’s difficult to shut off all electronic communications at times.

Aurelio M. Fernandez, III, president and CEO, Memorial Healthcare System


Connectivity to work while on vacation really depends on the nature of the job or if the individual has a “time sensitive” work assignment. At the Council for Educational Change, we do not require employees to stay connected to work while they are on holiday. Employees need time to decompress and re-energize. The only exception is if the employee is engaged in a critical project that cannot move forward without his or her consult or expertise. When employees submit vacation requests for approval, they include coverage for their positions and emergency contact information. During the time an employee plans to be away, he or she is expected to review job responsibilities or assignments with the individual(s) who will cover the position during the vacation period. It is important to cross-train employees so that the organization can operate effectively without the presence of the employee on vacation.

Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational Change


It is important for our team to maintain a healthy work/life balance, and that means enjoying their time off with their families and friends to recharge and re-energize. This adds to job satisfaction and productivity. However, today’s technology and easy access allows for greater connectivity anywhere in the world. This is helpful for our team to keep up with company happenings, and provide input. We live in a connected and fast-track world, and being in the know and updated is a critical factor of any job these days.

Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development


Hmmmm…. this is an interesting question. I’m a workaholic and an over-communicator, so vacations for me usually involve some level of work if I can get on line, except when I went to Cuba and couldn’t find wi-fi! That was stressful from a CEO standpoint. It was also interesting working from Singapore where it’s 13 hours in the future! So at 3:30 a.m. in Asia I was arranging radio production at 2 p.m. in Miami! I can’t just turn if off 100 percent, I guess. As for my staff, I expect them to sew up loose ends and keep the rest of the team in the loop with anything pending before leaving. Then I want them to have a ton of fun, or do nothing if they want, but to be totally refreshed and ready to hit the ground running when it’s over. Now I have a question: If it’s a company vacation, what should the policy be?

Suzan McDowell, president and CEO, Circle of One Marketing


Technology is an important priority for TotalBank, both for our employees as well as our clients, and we provide a variety of tools for connectivity. We do not require employees to work from vacation, yet it’s often the employee that will set the tone for how they interact with the office while on vacation (if at all). The employee may plan well in advance for their time off, have a designated back-up person to cover for them, and have notified their clients and co-workers that they will be out of the office — all in an effort to ensure their involvement is not needed while on vacation. But others, even with advance planning before taking vacation, prefer to be connected rather than return to a surprise. There are also certain designated positions for which we deactivate employee connectivity away from the office for specified periods of time.

Jay Pelham, president, Total Bank


My expectation is that employees should decompress and disconnect while on vacation in order to return refreshed and motivated. It is my expectation that employees enjoy their personal time without feeling the need to stay connected. It would be difficult to promote a work/life balance mindset if we do not truly honor employees’ vacation time. In doing so, it shows employees that we value and respect their personal time.

Dr. Larry Rice, president, Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus


Employees work very hard and when they have their time off, it should be theirs. We do not like to contact employees while on vacation, unless it is an emergency, but this rarely happens.

Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade


We have a generous vacation policy as we believe in supporting vacation times to refuel with family and friends. The team we have assembled understands the benefits of time off and manages their time appropriately while appreciating the needs of the business.

Vincent Signorello, president and chief executive officer, Florida East Coast Industries


I believe we should all unplug, so we recharge and come back rested. In our world of Smartphones, with 24-hour news and social media access, it’s a difficult task, but I encourage my employees to disconnect from work when they’re on vacation, and I need to improve upon that myself, as well.

John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association


When it comes to work/life balance, most of our employees do not stay connected while on vacation. Our firm does not expect that. However, on a partner level, I believe clients today expect us to be available at all times. Even when you’re abroad, it’s a constant search for quality internet connections. Responsiveness is critical to the client relationship.

Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos


The Miami Herald CEO Roundtable is a weekly feature that appears in Business Monday of the Miami Herald. Recent questions have included:

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