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When to log off: Making the most of your summer vacation

making the most of summer vacation

It’s no secret that the majority of Americans are “workaholics.” According to CNBC, nearly half of U.S. workers put in over 50 hours of work per week without extra pay.

Constantly being on the clock can make it hard for you to log off when it’s time for a vacation.

A report from the U.S. Travel Association reveals 212 million vacation days were unused in 2018, which is an equivalent to $62.2 billion in lost benefits. This year, reports show 4% of Americans will not ask for personal time off this year at all — even though their companies offer it.

Your paid time off (PTO) is part of your compensation package and taking advantage of those benefits can make you more productive in the long run. We know it can be hard for some to take time off, and can be even harder to unplug and de-stress while on vacation. Sometimes work is just unavoidable, but we’ve listed a few strategies below to make your experience seamless.

Here are some helpful ways to make the most of your OOO status and enjoy your vacation:

Before you go:

  • Don’t over-commit. A Glassdoor survey reveals that 66% of Americans admit to working while on vacation. If you know you’re heading out of town, don’t take on new projects when you know you won’t be able to finish them. Be honest with yourself before promising due dates and give yourself enough time to complete the task. If a project is left unfinished, tag in a colleague to assist well in advance.
  • Write an effective out-of-office email. You probably already know that it’s proper business protocol to set an OOO email if you’re unavailable during work hours. Perfect your OOO email by keeping it short and sweet. List the dates you’ll be out, a point of contact and when you’ll be returning. Wired.com recently shared these useful tips for crafting the perfect OOO email.
  • Be mindful of adding to your coworkers’ workloads. More than half of America’s workers say filling in for a colleague can be a “significantly stressful event.” To keep from doubling your teams’ workloads, plan for who will handle your tasks/projects while you’re out. You’ll want to provide your coworkers with all the documents/emails/information so it’s easier for them to help you. They will appreciate how seamless you made it for them to fill your shoes (and might return the favor when it’s time for their own PTO). 

While you’re gone:

  • Turn off email notifications on your phone. Turn off all notifications on your phone so you’re not distracted while trying to relax. Receiving a constant stream of notifications from your inbox will make you feel anxious and pressured to respond right away.
  • Don’t talk about work. According to a Glassdoor survey, 14% of responders said a family member or loved one complained about their workload while on vacation. Your workaholic tendencies can affect your family’s vacation time, too. Enjoy your time away and be present in the moment.
  • Limit your email check-ins. Give yourself boundaries when it comes to checking your emails. This Fast Company article recommends you allow yourself 15 minutes in the morning and evening to check emails while on vacation. Checking in periodically, but not spending too long engaging, can help manage your work-related anxiety.

When work comes up while OOO, these tools can help. We know vacations can’t always be 100% work-free. Luckily, there are plenty of tools to make those situations easier and help you get back to enjoying your time off.

  • The Pomodoro technique is a useful time management tool that uses 25 minute time-block intervals to teach you how to work with time instead of against it. Working and taking breaks in segments can help you prioritize your workload in a more efficient way (and remind you when it’s time to get back to your vacation).
  • Boomerang allows you to schedule or snooze emails ahead of time on both Gmail and Outlook. Pretty handy option to use while on vacation so you can schedule emails for a later time and return to your trip activities.
  • InsureSign (the No. 1 e-signature software for usability) makes it simple to get any document signed from wherever you are. Just realized you forgot to get a contract signed before heading to the beach? Then quickly hop online, and send it off for signing electronically in seconds with InsureSign. (The final digitally-signed document will automatically be emailed back to you, so it’ll be sitting in your box when you’re back from OOO time.)  Start your risk-free 14-day trial today by clicking here.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking the time you need to truly unplug can reap major dividends for your mental health, enhance your productivity and ultimately, set you up for success. So go ahead: book a flight and pack a bag. It’s good for you.

The case for remote workers: How and why to let your employees work from home

Remote workers

“Remote workers.” “Working from home.” “Digital nomads.”

No matter what you call it, it’s everywhere: a growing trend, in companies big and small, of staff working from off-site locations.

InsureSign, the e-signature software ranked No. 1 for usability, was an early adopter of remote-working policies. Throughout its seven-year history, Joe Floyd (InsureSign’s founder and CEO) has always had employees working from home.

We asked Joe a few questions about his experience with the practice: how InsureSign manages remote workers, tips for making it work best, and how you can lean on modern tools to make it work for you.

 

Tell us about InsureSign’s remote work culture.

Joe: You know, just about all of our employees work remotely at some time or anotherhalf are remote all the time.

Some of our team works out of our main office in Charleston, but even many of them will work remotely 1-2 days a week, either from home or a local coffee shop. It offers a nice change of pace or even just lets them skip their commutes from time to time.

How long have you had a remote work policy in place?

Joe: We’ve really always been that way. Even our first two employees were remote. It’s baked into our culture, and we’ve been used to it since the very beginning.

How has this policy been good for InsureSign? What are the major benefits to employers?

Joe: It helps us find the ideal person for that job, rather than confining our search to a certain geographical area or requiring someone to relocate. There were a few things we liked to do in person when we were first building the software; it was helpful to have people sitting around the same whiteboard at that point, but since then, it hasn’t been as important.

I do think a work-from-home option increases employee satisfaction, because they know they have some flexibility. And it can boost productivity, too. Some people work best early in the day, but like to take a break in the middle of the day and work late.

Remote work goes hand in hand with the mentality of just getting the job done. Some people are more productive that way than they would be if they were forced to show up early and punch a timecard.

Also, remote work decreases our overhead. Since we don’t have to foot the bill for the rent and utilities it would require to have all of these people in the same room at the same time, we can allocate those funds somewhere else. We compensate by providing our team with the equipment they need to work productively from home.

Any tips for managing remote workers, or for getting remote workers to work well together?

Joe: Having a regular schedule of meetings (and finding the right combination of one-on-ones and team meetings) makes a big difference.

And people are quick to just go for audio calls, but video calls are often much better. It can be kind of a pain, but the face-time is worth it in the end.

If at all possible, plan or encourage your team to get together in person when you can. People travel for plenty of reasons, so we encourage our staff to grab lunch together if they’re in someone’s neighborhoodwe’ll pay for it. Or maybe the whole group can travel to a central location once a year for a team gathering.

Or, if there’s a regular sales or customer event that you can send a few of your team members to, that’s a good use of resources. You don’t need to be together all the time to get that sense of cohesiveness, but connecting face-to-face when possible helps.

How does technology factor into InsureSign’s work-from-home policy?

Joe: We use a lot of tools. Slack, for example. There are more and more things out there that make it simple and effective to have people working from home.

I first started working remotely 19 years ago, well before we launched InsureSign. It was frustrating at times. The internet wasn’t as good as it is now, and neither were the communication tools, so I frequently had to go into the office anyway.

That’s not the case now. There are plenty of digital tools available that can make remote work not just doable, but highly productive.

Do you have any caveats or words of caution for employers to keep in mind as they explore a remote work policy?

Joe: I would say one thing: if you’re going to do it, you have to jump in. If you’ve got an office and you’re hiring a bunch of people to work remotely, you need to expand the practice to the rest of the office. Lean in and create a remote work culture. Get everyone on the same page. If remote workers are using digital tools or communications channels, you have to have everyone using them.
 
How are your customers using InsureSign to make remote work easier?

Joe: A lot of our customers use it to onboard remote employees, or to roll out new benefits or programs to existing employeesInsureSign can help with HR in that way, ensuring management has legally-compliant signatures from everyone, no matter where they’re based.

Also, our workflow makes it easy for people in different places to get paperwork signed and approved. If you have multiple signers and approvers who need to touch a document before it’s finalized, InsureSign makes it easy for them to manage that process seamlessly from wherever they are. It’s an excellent tool for getting work done when you have people from the same organization in different places.

Whatever your work-from-home policy is, one thing is for sure: InsureSign’s seamless, easy-to-use interface makes securing signatures from remote customers and coworkers super simple.

Try InsureSign risk-free for 14 days and start getting your documents e-signed in minutes… from wherever your customers are.

‘Head in the cloud’: How InsureSign’s development team is integrating the latest cloud-based technologies

Q&A: E-sign software developer Kris Gholson talks new technologies, the tech scene in the South, and life at InsureSign

We recently sat down with Kris Gholson, InsureSign’s lead developer, to learn about the creation of our e-signature software’s new, enhanced web-based version. Kris and his development team in Charleston have worked hard to make sure InsureSign continues to be the easiest e-signature tool to use.

We spoke with Kris about his unique background, the tech scene in the South, life at InsureSign and some of the newest cloud-based technologies keeping InsureSign a sleek & lean, e-signing machine.Kris Gholson, InsureSign’s lead developer

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your development background?

A: Before my career in development began, my early career was spent as an active duty Coast Guard officer for over 9 years. Once my time serving was complete, I left the Coast Guard to work for Perot Systems in its leadership and development program. After the events of September 11, 2001, I was called back into active duty.

After that, I worked developing Java software – and then joined InsureSign, where we leverage exciting new technologies like cloud computing, NoSQL databases, and serverless architecture.

Q: How long have you been working with InsureSign? How has your experience at InsureSign been different from previous jobs?  

A: I’ve been with InsureSign for about two years now. Prior to working with InsureSign, I always considered myself a “Jack-of-all-trades,” but InsureSign has definitely pushed that to the limit. It’s also been exciting working as the senior developer while managing the team and their multiple projects.

Q: What’s the best part of heading up InsureSign’s development team? What are your team’s particular strengths and areas of expertise?

A: Getting to do new things on a daily basis keeps things really interesting. As far as my team goes, they’re incredibly nimble and brave–no one is ever afraid to do something that is out of their area of expertise. That sort of can-do, mission-focused attitude really keeps a company like ours moving forward.

There’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst the team. They’re really talented and focused on building rock-solid backend services as well as creating the best user experience. Ultimately, it feels like we are taking on the giants of the industry and succeeding.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the technologies that were used to build the new InsureSign?

A: InsureSign has always used cloud computing to provide scalable and cost-effective solutions for our customers, but with our newest version, we have leveraged the latest serverless offerings from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to deliver an infinitely scalable system while keeping our own technical architecture as simple as possible. A serverless architecture reduces the time that our dev team spends thinking about low-level infrastructure tasks like operating and scaling servers; we re-invest that time in focusing on building the logic that makes e-signing better and easier for our customers. The serverless cost-model works for us too since we only pay for the computing resources that we use. We do more with less, and that allows us to deliver awesome product features at a great value.

For our backend services, we use AWS services like Lambda, Simple Storage Service (S3), and DynamoDB. Lambda is a Function as a Service (FaaS) and allows us to write code (mostly JavaScript and Java) without getting bogged down in heavyweight frameworks and infrastructure. S3 and DynamoDB enable us to easily and securely store and retrieve our customer’s data.

We built our client-facing web application using AngularJS and Bootstrap – both open-source web frameworks. AngularJS is a JavaScript framework powered by Google that we use to build our modern, single page application that responds to user interaction without frustratingly slow round-trips to the server to submit and retrieve data. Bootstrap makes it easy for us to ensure that our application is “responsive.” Ultimately, both provides a more pleasant experience for the end customer.

Q: You’re based in Charleston. Do you think the South is a hotspot for technology right now, or heading in that direction?

A: Absolutely, it’s definitely become a tech hotspot and continues to move in that direction. There’s a lot of tech in the Southeast and a lot of opportunities for development careers in Charleston. For a medium-sized southern city, it’s doing really well and will only continue to do that.

Kris led the development of the new web-based version of InsureSign, available for new customers today. Ready to give it a try? Start now with a 14-day free trial.