How to Unplug From Work and Recharge While on Vacation
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It's summer vacation and you're looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family. But what about disconnecting from work?
Regardless if you are hopping on a plane, taking a road trip or staying at home, you deserve a real break. Unplugging can be challenging when you are working remotely and you can work from everywhere. But it's worth taking the effort to disconnect, as a relaxing vacation can lower your stress, improve your productivity and boost your career. If you are not convinced, check out the research data on this HBR article and its powerful conclusion statement:
If you take all of your vacation days and plan ahead for trips, you will increase your happiness, success rate, and likelihood of a promotion, and you’ll lower your stress level to boot.
I love traveling and I believe it's easier to disconnect when I get immersed in a different environment and culture. I never pay for international roaming, so I don't have internet on my fingertips. I use a paper map to move around, ask locals for recommendations, take pictures with my DSLR camera - like the good old days.
I haven't traveled in the past year and I have enjoyed my 'staycations' and short road trips.
Here are 5 strategies to help you take a break and enjoy your time-off without feeling guilty:
1. Plan with your team for coverage during your Summer vacation
If the work cannot wait until your return, plan ahead and do a proper handover to a co-worker prior to your vacation. I very often work long hours a week or so before leaving, so I can get a lot done and ensure my backup will have the required information to do my work when I am not around. I also make it clear that I will not be checking emails, and that they should reach out to me only in case of extreme urgency - which they rarely do.
2. Stay away from your work computer during your Summer vacation
That is valid if you stay home or if you travel (don't even consider packing your computer). If something urgent happens, you should be able to guide your teammate to solve it or address the matter yourself over the phone. If you open your computer, it will be hard to close it again before doing the work yourself and also replying to some not-so-urgent emails.
3 - Remove your phone notifications to unplug when on vacations
It will be hard to relax if your phone buzzes every time an email, or message from corporate apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams arrives, reminding you of the work demands. So remove all notifications from your phone, including the ones from social media, so you can do a tech detox and fully relax during your Summer vacation.
4 - Plan fun and self-care activities to recharge during Summer vacations
I like to stay active and explore different places when on vacations, so I plan ahead even if I don't travel. Enjoyable activities and spending time in touch with nature will help you to relax and forget about work for a few days.
I also reserve time for relaxation and self-care - reading by the beach, going to a Spa, doing yoga with a view. Even if your vacation is centered around spending time with your family and friends, reserving time for you is important to clear your thoughts and boost your creativity.
5 - Develop your team while doing the work for colleagues on vacation
Use vacations as an opportunity to let your team develop new skills and take over more responsibilities while rotating through different roles while back-filling for people who are out of the office. Early in my career I was given the opportunity to lead the team and work with senior executives when my manager was on a 3-week vacation (smartphones were not as robust at the time, and no I am not that old). In a short period of time I was pushed to demonstrate leadership skills when managing the team through important projects. When my manager was back, he trusted me to be the team supervisor, freeing up his time to focus on strategic initiatives.
I agree, it's not easy to disconnect and not feel guilty about it, especially if leaders around you just take 'workations' - work fewer hours from their vacation destination. Resist the temptation to follow the flow and remember you are a diva, and you should set standards based on what is the best for you and your team. I truly believe that, by working hard to disconnect, you will develop into a better leader, more efficient and creative professional. If you need a reminder about why should should be taking vacation, go back to this post.