Wowser—I’ve clearly hit a nerve or two on the topic of providing coverage for clients during your absence. After my last two posts (here and here), Belle wrote to say:

I absolutely feel responsible to provide for my clients in my absence. After all, It’s not their fault I’m going on vacation. I can’t leave them high and dry while I’m gone. Besides, what if something happens while I’m gone that they can’t handle? It’s always my job, whether I’m here or not, to make sure things go right for them.

Although you all probably know this by now, let me state what seems obvious to me: there are no VA police waiting to come bang on you for doing things your way. So do what feels best to you.

Here in my camp, though, I see it far differently. To me, it’s your “job” to provide virtual administrative support to your clients, when you’re working. When you’re on vacation, you are no longer working, and no longer responsible for providing that service. Unless you live with a pager and make yourself available around the clock (and gosh, I hope that’s not the case!), there already are times you’re not available, and I bet you don’t even flinch about those times. This is just another one of those times.

Further, you are never responsible for making sure “things go right” for your clients. They are not minor children that you birthed into the world and have a legal responsibility to and for. The responsibility for making things go right belongs to the clients. Please don’t overcare about them.

If you want to care too much about anyone or anything, choose to do it for yourself, your happiness, and your well-being.

Taking on more than is yours to take on is part of an employment model that teaches people to do more than they signed up for in order to hopefully keep their jobs. You aren’t part of that culture and have no reason to buy into being that way.

As I mentioned last week, clients need to be able to run their own businesses. In actuality, by always providing coverage, you lull them into a false sense of security and do them no favors. What looks like caring is overcaring, which isn’t actually caring at all.

If something happened to you tomorrow, what would they do…how would they manage their businesses? Sure, it’s nice to feel valued, but no one is genuinely indispensable, and trying to make yourself indispensable is more about some unmet need you have than about what’s good for the clients. Short breaks require the clients to make sure they know how all areas of their businesses are being run. That’s a very good thing. They need to know.

Further, and equally important, you need breaks (like vacation) where you completely disconnect, physically and mentally, from your work (and your clients’ work). Going away and knowing the clients are handling things and being responsible for what’s going on makes disconnecting so much easier than going away and wondering how the “temp” VA is doing, and what you might have to correct or deal with on your return.

More than anyone, you deserve exquisite care from yourself.  When you care more about what your clients need than what you need, no one really benefits.