American workers aren’t as good at vacationing as their counterparts in other industrialized nations, tending to either work on vacation or skip taking time off. They simply find it hard to disconnect. Over two dozen countries require companies to offer four weeks or more of paid vacation, but there is no such requirement in America. In the U.S., only 57 percent of workers take their full allotment of off-time, compared to 89 percent in France. In fact, two of every 14 vacation days go unused in America, representing $34.3 billion in wasted opportunity. Many people find it difficult to be away, fearing that supervisors will see it as a lack of dedication to the job. Whether jetting off to a warmer climate or taking a well-deserved “staycation” to spend time with family, you’ll want to make sure to enjoy your time off. Here are a few tips to help you take back your time off because nobody likes a “workation.”
Prepare to be away to minimize working on vacation
Putting in some extra time before leaving the office helps eliminate the backlog when you return, and makes it easier to leave work at work. Start by preparing a work-in-progress list of current projects. Include the current status and the next steps, any collaborators, the expected completion dates, and all vital contacts. Share the document with managers and coworkers. With this document, there should be fewer “emergencies” requiring a vacation interruption.
Next, prepare a detailed out-of-office email message. In the message, let contacts know you will not be reviewing every message upon return and they should email or call after a specific date if they need a reply. Add one or two days to that date to allow time to settle back into the routine. Also, provide alternatives for having their concerns addressed, including the company website or an assistant or colleague.
Set up a vacation-only email account and provide that address to only one or two people with whom contact is essential. Use filters in the usual accounts to redirect messages to a gatekeeper colleague, the company CEO, and similar persons. Then, read the messages in that account, but don’t reply from there. Remember, the address should stay mostly secret.
Set a schedule for working on vacation and stick to it
Decide how much time to set aside for work each day, if working on vacation is necessary, and put it on the schedule. Arrange it so it doesn’t interfere with spending time with your friends or family. Perhaps check emails and handle mini crises before breakfast or after the day’s activities are complete. Then, except for true “life and death” emergencies, stick to the schedule. Consider taking along a notebook or even a smart notebook, which lets you save notes to the cloud and then erase them, thus letting you to avoid revisiting them over and over. With this office tool, users can make reminder notes for the next work session; after dealing with them during the scheduled time.
Pick a coworker willing to act as a gatekeeper and refer callers and email contacts to that individual. If the gatekeeper feels that the issue is important enough to contact you, arrange for it to only be through voicemail. Do not answer work calls or texts; respond only to voicemail messages from the gatekeeper. When a resolution requires more than a single email response; set up a video conference on a laptop computer to settle it more efficiently, instead of spending hours exchanging emails.
Force yourself to unplug
Begin by moving the itinerary and other travel information out of an inbox, eliminating the temptation to check in “while I’m already here.” Carry only a personal cell phone. Even better, leave work and personal cell phones, tablets, and iPads in the hotel and rely on a friend or family member’s phone, if it’s essential to carry one at all. If you aren’t checking messages every few minutes, it’s much easier to leave work at work.
Next, totally immerse in vacation activities. Stay busy to stay distracted from all thoughts of work. Plan activities that put the group out of the cell phone or Wi-Fi range, as well. Finally, if the urge to work is too strong to resist alone, ask an assistant or colleague to change the passwords on all work-related accounts and apps. They are easy to change back after the vacation is over, but you’re forced to stay out of those accounts in the meantime.
With these simple tips and tricks, it‘s possible to join those workers who say they return rested, rejuvenated, and feeling more productive and more positive about their jobs, even if working during vacation is necessary.