There exists one word that gets all of us excited. Universally. And it is ‘vacation’ – our time off to recharge, rest, and heal. It actually has similar positive biological effects as meditation, including a decrease in stress, and a boost to our immune functions.
But, do we use our vacation time well? Probably not. 54% of employees work at least once or twice a week, while on vacation – a 13% increase from 2016. Unplugging completely is difficult. The reasons – ensuring matters are under control (54%), keeping projects going (53%), managing workflow (47%), and keeping colleagues from heavier workloads (34%). Though these are good intentions, the impact of it is far from ideal. Our restorative time turns stressful.
So how do we practice setting better boundaries with our work devices, at vacation? Here are some ideas:
- Write clear ‘out-of-office’ messages. Avoid sharing that you’ll be checking your messages occasionally. It sets up an expectation of a response, and might prompt people to contact you more. So it’s okay to say you’ll respond shortly after you return.
However, if that’s a stretch, spend a couple of hours assessing your work at the tail end of your vacation. This will allow you to respond to urgent messages, and leave the others for your return. The idea – to protect the freedom of your vacation time.
- Move away from your devices. This one sounds a little silly, but our attachment to our devices prompts such measures. A 2016 Deloitte survey found that Americans collectively check their phones 8 billion times per day! The average for individuals was 46 checks per day, including at leisure time—watching TV, spending time with friends, eating dinner. And that’s a scary trend.
The suggestion – have pockets of time when you aren’t using your devices. Like meal times, day by the beach, or in bed. This could make you anxious, as you might be reminded of notifications, or feel the desire to send a picture. But stay with it. Keep it out of sight, so you aren’t quite as inclined to reach for it. For all you know, you might find a new tech/mind balance!
- Anticipate and manage the overwhelm. We tend to experience more happiness before our trip rather than after, according to the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life. Why? Because our to-do feels overwhelming. Just reading and responding to each individual email received in your absence could take hours. And we carry some guilt about having taken a vacation!
An effective way to manage this: request your team to give you a brief overview of what happened when you were gone. A bulleted list presented in order of urgency. These recaps not only give you the intelligence you need as you transition back, but it’s also an opportunity to acknowledge your team for holding the fort.
These are suggestions and practices we know of. Yet we struggle to practice them. Would you like to try them for your next vacation?