This week marks the official start of summer, and with the sunshine and warmer temperatures come vacation time for many employees. In fact, vacations benefit both companies and their employees to relax and return to the office with more motivation and productivity than before. But, this vacation time is not being used by many U.S. employees because of increased demands and expectations from employers and clients, making it harder to tune out for a full week or even two. In 2014, U.S. workers left more than 400 million unused vacation days on the table. Leaving the office for a week is possible, but completely disconnecting can take a combination of strategic foreplaning and a lot of self-discipline.
Here are a couple tips to make your vacation this summer easier on yourself and your coworkers:
Plan before you leave
Before you leave, work ahead on any project still sitting in your to-do pile and brief any coworkers stepping in on the task in your absence. While you will be out, set expectations with your bosses, coworkers and clients about how much communicating they should do with you and who they should talk to in your place. If not in place already, establish a clear definition of what an “emergency” really is and the expectations for communicating with you, others on your team, or who will handle things in your absence.
Actually follow your out of office message
It shouldn’t be news that you should set an out of office reply to your email accounts when spending a significant amount of time out of the office. Use this message to convey when you will and won’t be available. If it says you will respond to messages upon your return to the office, don’t check messages while you’re out. When your coworkers or clients see that you, in fact, are responding to emails, they will assume you can handle other issues and items even though you are on vacation.
Establish rules, and stick to them (no matter what)
If you can’t completely disconnect from the office, create a schedule of when you will be online and available to your coworkers and clients or actively checking messages. When that time is over, close out of apps and turn off your notifications and return to your vacation. Make sure you talk about these rules with your traveling companions so they know when you will be engaged in work and help to keep you unengaged when you should be.
Remember, you’re not on the clock – RELAX!
Breaks from the office are crucial – there is a reason why we earn vacation time! No matter how stressful work can become, make sure you are getting the most out of your vacation by recharging your batteries, connecting with family and friends and enjoying your trip. If you can, take a couple hours of quiet time to yourself to reflect by journaling, reading a book or talking a walk. These quiet moments allow time to think and evaluate some of those thoughts you’ve had, but haven’t had the time to really spend time contemplating.
If you know you really won’t be able to unplug and step away from work, take a vacation somewhere you will be forced to disconnect from the lack of service or Wi-Fi, such as a cruise or a camping trip. Even if you don’t have plans this summer to take a long getaway, incorporate some of these habits into a weekend at home. Make plans with your family or friends for a stay-cation and vow to unplug for the entire weekend. Taking time away from the office will help make you a more productive employee when you return.