The ability to set limits is a requirement for any relationship and work is no exception. At no time is this more important than during the holiday season.
Finding work/life balance is becoming more difficult as the accessibility afforded by technology lets work intrude on personal and family time. As such, holiday time -- be it going away on vacation or finding time with family and friends --is sacred.
Nevertheless, there are managers who insist on reaching out to employees on vacation, with the belief that because they can communicate with them, it's OK to do so and to expect replies. But what is more problematic, is that many workers reply. This can be disappointing to the people they have made commitments to during the holidays and to themselves for not resisting the temptation to be "on-call."
Every year when I ask clients how their holidays went, at least half say something like "it was hardly a vacation -- I did tons of work." Many employees today wear "I am so busy" badges of honour, but surely there are limits. Vacation time should be vacation time.
The solution lies in setting boundaries for others and setting them for yourself. Managers should clearly communicate how the organization operates during the holidays, just telling employees the holiday office hours isn't enough. They must articulate their expectations for completing unfinished work, how the holiday break will affect time-sensitive deliverables, and the extent to which employees are expected to be available for things that come up during the holiday period. As well, managers need to respect their employees time off, recognizing that doing so can enhance job satisfaction and productivity.
But employees also should solicit this information and most importantly, set the limits for intruding on vacation time. This means explicitly telling the boss when you are off limits. Of course, any boundaries you set with your boss, must be adhered to by you, something that seems to be the challenge for employees. Some managers still will reach out during the holidays, but the onus is on employees to enforce the limits they have set. Leave the BlackBerry at home, or at least don't answer it. If you do, then getting pulled into work when you are on vacation is something you will have done to yourself.