How to Improve Your Chances of Taking an Unwired Vacation

... Yes, even if you work in IT.

Unwired vacations and the work of IT professionals don't mix.

IT workers are in many ways like other kinds of on-call professionals in the health care and security industries, for whom evenings, weekends and holidays are par for the workplace course.

So it should be little surprise that the majority of IT professionals say they haven't taken a vacation that didn't include being leashed to a laptop or PDA in years.

But need this be the end of the story? Some say no. More and more workers have stepped forward recently in hopes of shifting the paradigm of the always-on employee. Perhaps being able to unshackle oneself from wireless technology while on a vacation could be a sign that you're doing your job well.

"If you prepare to be away in advance, your organizational skills may impress your leadership team and allow you to take a truly work-free vacation," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at

This sentiment was echoed by an Internet marketing consultant in Washington, D.C., who told eWEEK that he used to check in while on vacation. But now he hires good people and lets them do their jobs.

"If you want to be a better employee, take a real vacation. Make sure everyone in the office knows you do not have cell coverage, you will not have access to e-mail, and who to contact in your absence. Take a real vacation. Happier people make better employees," writes Eric Boehme at the Blogging Boss.

Yet such things are easier said than done. Here are some suggestions to improve your odds of having a real, offline vacation-the kind you actually come back rested from.

1. Warn Your Office Far in Advance

By letting everyone on your team know when you'll be gone, what you'll miss and who will cover for you, nobody needs to be surprised to find out you didn't come in Monday morning.

2. Schedule Your Vacation at the Right Time

Planning a vacation in the lull between big projects and releases gives you better odds of not being urgently pinged while hiking with your family.

"Make sure you set deadlines for client deliverables at least two days before your last day in the office. This will give you some leeway and make sure you aren't in office until 9 or 10 p.m. every night before you leave," suggests Ed Lee, a PR director, on his blog.

3. Pick "On" Time, and Ask People to Stick to It

Sticking to a plan, such as picking one time each day or week to check in, can cause both your family you are traveling with and your coworkers to relax a bit. It can also increase the chances of quickly undoing your relaxation by being swamped with work when you get back.

John Halamka, a health care CIO, says that when he goes on vacation, he checks his e-mail in the morning before his family gets up and late in the evening, after they go to bed-and that's it.

"This means that I can resolve all issues and keep my e-mail queue empty. When I return to the office, there is nothing waiting for me. A great vacation is one that is easy to return from. The burden of having 5,000 e-mails and five crises to resolve is high, so I invest a bit of time each day to ensure my desk is empty when I return, minimizing the emotional cost of a vacation," Halamka blogs.

4. Set Your OOTA

You'd be surprised how many people forget to set their Out of the Office Auto-Replies and change their outgoing voice mail message to let people know they're going on vacation. Doing so can greatly reduce the pressure on you when you return, and may even convince a person about to leave you a message that it's not urgent enough that it can't wait until you return.

5. If You Can't Resist Your PDA, Hide It

For some people, checking for new e-mails and messages is a compulsion, something they do once every other minute more out of habit than out of need. If you're one of these people, you might be amused to know that some hotels have organized programs that will lock up your BlackBerry for you.