I am on a “working vacation” for the month of August – I am taking my seven-year-old son on a road trip to visit family and friends throughout New England*. While he and his cousins enjoy swimming, running, biking and playing, I continue to work remotely with pools, ponds, mountains and meadows as my office view. We are nomadic, staying anywhere from two nights to a week in each place. Along the way, I’ve picked up some tips on being a good guest that I think translate really well to the work place.
- Pick up after yourself. When you don’t have any place to put your stuff, it can start migrating all over the place. Not only is that inconsiderate of the people who live there, but it makes it harder to pack up and you can lose stuff in the process. At work, keep your workspace neat and tidy – it shows respect for your co-workers and makes it easier to respond to them when they need something from you.
- Help with the chores. While you are a “guest,” you are also family! You are not there to be waited on – pitch in and help with the dishes, the laundry, weeding or childcare. Not only does it build a stronger bond and sense of community, but if you don’t, it can lead to resentment and a less pleasant environment. At work, if you’re not too busy or have finished a project, look around and see who else needs help – this not only strengthens your team, but it will come back to you next time you’re in a crunch.
- House rules. We have a lot of rules for our son – and they are not always the same at every house we visit. While some are non-negotiable (no-hitting, no stealing, no knocking over of Mommy’s cocktail), there is a need for flexibility. If something is a no-go in that house, it applies to my son, too; if they are allowed to do something that he normally would not be (we’re talking extra sweets here, not R-rated movies and cigarettes), it’s okay to loosen the reins and let him have that experience. It is more fun for everyone and I am often surprised how well he navigates a different routine or set of rules. At work, the way you do something is not the only way to do it – people have different ways of working or accomplishing a task – try letting go of the how and focusing just on the results.
- Ask for what you need. The people hosting you want you to be comfortable (not too comfortable, see #2 above!), but they don’t always know what you need. Do you prefer a certain type of milk or yogurt? Let them know next time they go to the store. Does your kid need to go to bed early? Say goodnight when it’s the appropriate time. Do you need to do some laundry? Ask if you can throw some things in next time they do a load. If you don’t let people know what you need in order to have the best experience and settle in to their routine, it can become a bit awkward – negative or uncomfortable energies are easily picked up on! At work, if you need help, ask someone – you may need extra resources, more time or a hand with something. If you don’t ask, your boss will still pick up on your less-than-positive energy but won’t know why and that can lead to all sorts of communication problems. Articulating what you need makes things clear, allows others to participate in finding a solution, and still lets you shine.
- Don’t forget to pick up the check. One of the nice things about a trip like this is that it can really reduce the cost of hotels and eating out – this is a good thing! However, it’s not free: you are adding costs to your hosts like a longer grocery list, a higher energy bill and a bigger laundry load. Be cognizant of their expenses and try to contribute where you can – do the grocery shopping sometimes or chip in for their weekly expenses. Take the kids out for ice-cream or a trip to a local activity, and definitely take them out to dinner at least once while you’re there – it’s a nice way to say thank you and no one has to cook or clean. It can be a vacation for everyone! At work, it is important to share the spotlight – chip in on others’ recognition and participation, share the credit for a project you worked on, let them work with the best volunteer – ensuring that they get some of the good stuff helps your office experience be a little less like work and just a wee bit more like vacation.
– Libby Bingham
*Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and back to Connecticut in 25 days by car! [Editor’s Note: Libby is a brave, brave woman!] 😉