How to Take a “Work-Free” Vacation

When was the last time you had a “work-free” vacation? As an employee, taking a vacation gives you well-deserved time off. Vacations have been shown to increase physical and mental well-being including decreasing the risk of depression. Employees who take vacations also tend to perform better at work, have increased productivity with greater focus, and as a result gain new perspectives. Taking a “work-free” vacation by not responding to e-mails and voicemails increases those benefits further.   

So how does one successfully take a “work-free” vacation in this overly connected workplace? To start you off, here are some suggestions:

1. Create a checklist including “priorities”.

By being organized and aware of what needs to get done before, during, and after your vacation you can alleviate any anxiety you may have of leaving incomplete tasks. Make a list of everything that you’re currently working on, including projects and everyday tasks you may take for granted. Identify which must be completed prior to your departure. Focus on getting those done before you leave, putting others to one side. For those you won’t get done, determine your plan for when you return from vacation so there are no surprises. Finally, for those that are ongoing, determine which and who you can delegate these to while you’re unavailable. 

2. Turn on your “Out of the Office” auto-reply.

There should be an auto-reply for your email and the equivalent message on your work voicemail. Include a list of who should be contacted for each type of issue, concern, or inquiry with their contact information. Make it simple, for example, “Please note I will away from the office on vacation from Monday December 26, returning Tuesday January 3.”

3. Communication is key.

You may feel the need to keep it quiet, but it really is beneficial for everyone to know that you’ll be on vacation. The earlier they know the more they’ll be able to plan around your schedule, and the more they’ll be able to manage things while you’re gone. Make sure anyone who may have an increase in activity because of you being out, is aware and can cover for you.

Let people know that you don’t plan to work during your vacation. Provide them details about how you’re going to manage this through being organized, creating your priorities list and being on top of what needs to get done. Ask them to respect this time but let them know you’re available before and after to get their priorities completed. Make sure to block the time on your calendar but also consider sending reminders just before you leave. 

4. Ditch the guilt and truly take a vacation.

Your employer wants you to take time off! They want you to get away and have time to relax and rejuvenate. Going through the motions but then working from a different location doesn’t do anyone any good. Have that mindset that once you jump in the car or get on the plane, you are on vacation and this is your time. It’s often easier said than done as we may feel guilty about taking time off and leaving others to do our work but if you have planned, prioritized, and completed what needed to get done, ditch the guilt. Your co-workers will notice the difference when you return and if that’s not enough, take them out to lunch to thank them, or better still, cover for them when they take a break. 

5. Block out your calendar for your first day back.

If you have managed to take that much needed vacation you’ll undoubtedly return to a long list of emails, “catch up” meetings, and urgent matters to contend with. Plan for this. Block time in your calendar on that first day back to sort through all the items you missed while on vacation. Then use this time to get organized, updated, and back on track. 

6. Unplug!

Relax and enjoy your vacation. Leave the laptop at home and stop checking emails, even remove your work email from your phone (it’s easy to add back!). If you planned and communicated properly, your co-workers will have you covered and you won’t need to check in or respond to emails or other “urgent” matters until you return. If someone really needs you, they’ll call (probably more than once).

7. And finally, encourage others to take time off too!

For all the reasons above, we should be encouraging everyone to take a break! Don’t “vacation shame” anyone. Proactively encourage your team, share the above, and let them know you’ll be willing to support them during their time off. 

Email us today so we can help you with you take a “work-free” vacation this holiday season!