Time off for vacation is a common benefit provided by many companies, both large and small. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t use all of the vacation time they are given each year. There are also some who use their vacation time but take work with them – answering emails, writing reports, and doing other tasks during their “time off.”
Many companies encourage their employees to take time off because they recognize how beneficial it is for both the employer and the employee. Taking time off, it turns out, makes you a better worker.
A vacation does wonders for reducing stress and improving your overall health. According to a New York Times report, taking regular vacations lowers your risk for heart disease. It also allows your mind and body to rest and recuperate, improving mental health and decreasing workplace burnout. This typically results in improved productivity and a positive career outlook when you return to work.
Despite the obvious benefits of taking time off to recharge their batteries, many still find it difficult to completely unplug from work – even for a short period of time. The following are six ways you can take full advantage of your vacation time to reduce stress, clear your mind, and be a better worker.
Complete critical tasks before you go
Are you the only person who does the type of work you do where you work? If so, it’s important to identify the things that are mission critical and make sure they are completed before you leave for vacation.
Taking care of important tasks before you leave gives you the freedom to stop thinking about them during your time off. To get all of the benefits of a vacation, it’s not enough to just be away from your work, you also need to stop thinking about it.
Schedule your vacation during the slow season
There are many businesses and professions that have seasons where there is predictably more work. A good example involves CPAs who often work long hours during tax season. A great way to take a worry-free vacation is to take it during times when you know there will be less work.
As an added benefit, the slow season for many businesses also occurs during times of the year when fewer people are taking vacations, like during the winter months. This can work in your favor by allowing you to save money on lodging, transportation, and other expenses.
Set up an email autoresponder
Disconnecting from work while on vacation means not worrying about unanswered emails. The best way to take care of this is to set up an email autoresponder to let people know you will be out of the office for a while.
An email autoresponder is a special feature in an email program that allows you to automatically send a prewritten message when you receive an email. Most email systems have an autoresponder feature, and they are usually very easy to set up.
When you set up an automated email response message, be sure to mention that you are on vacation, when you will be returning, and that you will get back to them when you return. This allows you to stop worrying about leaving important messages unanswered.
Don’t be afraid to completely disconnect
If you are on vacation and you are still responding to work email or answering work-related phone calls, guess what? You’re still working. To get the most from a vacation, it’s best to completely disconnect from work during your time away. If you have to, leave all work communications devices at home. Also leave your work laptop behind. If you use your personal electronic devices for work, you may have to limit access to work-related accounts. It may also be necessary to turn off notifications from any work-related apps.
Disconnecting not an option? Limit work communications
There are some circumstances where it may not be possible to completely disconnect from work while on vacation. If you find yourself in such a situation, you can still make the most of your vacation by limiting access to work email accounts and mobile devices.
You could, for instance, decide to only check your work email the mornings before you start your day and then not check it again until the next morning. Another strategy is to plan a vacation to a place with limited email access, like a cruise or a camping trip. A self-imposed limitation minimizes work interference, giving you the time you need to recharge.
Give yourself permission to enjoy your vacation
One of the most important things you can do to get the full benefits of a vacation is to go with the right attitude. Go with the understanding that allowing yourself time away from work is important for your health and wellness and that it reduces stress and helps prevent career burnout.
Taking a vacation isn’t just about having a good time. It improves your mood, outlook, and increases productivity. It makes you a better employee and a more valuable asset to your company. So don’t be afraid to pack your bags and go off on an adventure. Don’t be afraid of using your vacation time. In the end, it’s not just about you. It’s about doing what’s best for both you and your employer. As often said in the business world, it’s a “win-win.”
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