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Work-Life Balance: Unplugging Successfully on Vacation - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Unplugging Successfully on Vacation

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Unplugging Successfully on Vacation

You can look at vacation as some benefit your employer squeezes through tight fists in order to reel you in and put your signature on the dotted line. But you can also look at it as an investment by your employer in your health. Healthy, happy, balanced employees mean good, productive workplaces, so not only is taking vacation good for you. It’s good for you, your team, your employer, and your clients.

Chances are, if you’re like most of us, you have difficulty truly unplugging, and this works against the very purpose and benefit of vacation, like switching to a healthy diet, but only for one meal a day. Sure, it’s kind of beneficial, but only slightly. And just as you need a plan for healthier dining, you could really use a plan for unplugged vacationing.

This is not to say a complete unplugging is necessary. It’s your vacation, and vacation means indulgence, especially in the things you rarely have time for in your regular workaday life. If you’re dying for a three-day Overwatch marathon or if it’s been ages since your last YouTube deep-dive, by all means, load the fridge with Mountain Dew and Bagel Bites and sink into some beautiful online bliss. The idea is not fully to relive life on the prairie--the idea is to find that mental space where you’re the most you, away from the obligations of work, and immerse yourself in that space for a while.

Still, some amount of time away from screens is certainly beneficial. You don’t mind handing your iPad over to the kids when they have some time, but you also keep an eye them and set some limits, not because they have other stuff to do, but because you have some concept that a life in front of a screen is unhealthy.

In a CNN interview with William Powers, author of Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, Powers says we need unplugged time for our mental well-being. “What we forget is that it actually takes you into a different state of mind,” he explains. “It's a different type of consciousness, the digital one.” So watch those Brady Bunch bloopers on YouTube, but take some time for sunshine, fresh air, the reflection of stars on the water, and some deep breathing.

Alexandra Samuel, writing for the Harvard Business Review, emphasizes the importance of planning ahead of time, whether your goal is a complete disconnect or the occasional peek at the work email and maybe a minute or two in the company Slack. Three huge questions Samuel suggests you answer before you go are:

  • What’s the least amount of work connectivity I can get away with?
  • What do I still want to use technology for while I’m away?
  • What do I and my fellow travelers expect from each other?

Samuels reminds us that “setting shared expectations about tech use is especially important if you or your fellow travelers have kids you’re trying to keep offline or off-screen.”

Perhaps some of the best advice we’ve seen about work emails is from Jenni Maier of The Daily Muse. She outlines her strategy for not checking her work email at all while on a trip, beginning with a message to “your most reliable teammates (or boss or direct reports),” asking if they can pitch in while you’re out. “Next, make a list of anyone you regularly work with,” she says, “and shoot them an email letting them know the dates you’ll be unreachable; ask if there’s anything you can do in advance.”

Then, says Maier, a few days before you leave, send the message again and add that you won’t be checking your emails. Anything that must be attended to immediately can go to (insert name of colleague here), and you welcome in advance any requests you can take care of before you go. You’re going to do the same for (insert name of colleague here) when he leaves, so it’s fine. Then add that true emergencies can be sent via text message. You are an important person and there may be emergencies, after all. But Maier says that the extra step of sending a text message really discourages people from seeking you for anything but true emergencies.

The Japanese have a custom that’s worth looking at here. It’s called omiyage, which means “souvenir.” In Japan, bringing omiyage to co-workers and families is a social obligation, and can be considered a form of apology for the traveler's absence. The custom has found its way to areas with large Asian American populations, such as Hawaii, almost always in the form of some small food item available wherever you’ve traveled but not available back home. The small gesture reminds colleagues that you’re aware of the inconvenience your trip has on the team, but that you gratefully will cover for others when they’re away on trips.

Vacation is your time to do those things you don’t have time for, but it’s also a mental and physical reset of sorts, a reminder to your brain and body that you’re not merely the person in the professional attire carrying that messenger bag to an office every day. Planning ahead, you can make the most of it as an indulgence and as a tune-up for the next few months behind glass windows in the sky. Decide how unplugged you want to be, and put the plan in motion weeks before you leave the office. This will maximize the benefit of your time away, for you, for your loved ones, and for your company.

Reference links:
CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/web/05/26/no.vacation.tech/index.html
HBR: https://hbr.org/2014/07/the-right-way-to-unplug-when-youre-on-vacation
The Daily Muse: https://www.themuse.com/advice/every-excuse-youve-ever-made-for-not-unplugging-on-vacation-destroyed


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Work-Life Balance: Unplugging Successfully on Vacation - Executive Leadership Articles

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