Holiday Vacation Exit Strategy: How To Take A Break | Beth's Blog

Holiday Vacation Exit Strategy: How To Take A Break

Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Personal Productivity, Resilience

The holidays are almost here.  It should be a time where nonprofits and their hard working employees welcome some much needed downtime. Vu Le in a recent guest post on the Guidestar blog has issued a call to inaction suggesting that nonprofits should give the week off to staff.

He offers some good reasons why:  making up for working long hours all year; compensate for low pay; improve morale; and boost individuals’ resilience and productivity.  He also acknowledges that there are other considerations such those organizations that provide direct services and being a busy time of year for fundraisers.

Joan Garry also talks about the importance of time off for hard working nonprofit staff or else it is the express train to burnout.

In the Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout, Aliza Sherman and I did a deep dive into the research literature about the proven links between vacation time, employee resilience and productivity, and how it contributes to the organization’s goals.  Yet according to recent studies, only 23% take all their vacation and 66% work while on vacation.

The Project Time Off is leading a national movement to transform American attitudes and change behavior. They hope to shift culture so that taking time off is understood as essential to personal wellbeing, professional success, business performance, and economic expansion.  You will find useful research, resources, and other information to help you make the case for taking your vacation time.

One reason that people don’t take their vacations is that they are afraid they will miss too much work and get too far behind.  Others fear they will have millions of emails piling up and find themselves compulsively reading and responding to email during a holiday break, ironically to reduce stress.

It is time for a shift in perspective.   Tell yourself that taking a vacation is healthy and that you’ll return to work more creative, energized, and resilient. And, it is important to not to be online reading your emails while your taking a break.  Here are some tips for unplugging from work during the holidays:


  • Close the Office: As Vu Le suggests and if it is possible for your nonprofit to do, closing the office during the holidays and encouraging folks to fully log off is the best approach.
  • Prep Your Individual Getaway: Before your holiday break, let other people know you are leaving. Some people put on a pre-vacation bounce message.  Make sure you remind people to get their requests to you a few days before the office closes to the holiday so you can get back to them or get that task done.
  • Bounce Message:  Put a bounce message on your email letting people know that you are out and won’t get back to them immediately.  While it might be tempting to add a humorous bounce message, some people may include a phone number if there is an urgent situation. Add a few days to your bounce message, so when you come back, you won’t feel obligated to respond to everything at once.


  • Resist the Urge To Check Email: It is easier to say than do, especially if you are addicted to your email and mobile phone. One option might be to remove your work email entirely, or put all work apps on the last screen buried in a folder. At least your thumbs will have to do a walk of shame before taping your email app.
  • If you must read email: Try not to respond, just read and focus on deleting and clearing out. More tips here.


  • Re-entry Day: When I go on a break, I try to give myself a full day back home before going back to work. I use that day to do laundry and clean up my email. Here are some tips about coming back from break without more stress than before you left. Luckily, early January tends to be slow for most nonprofits and you might return from your holiday with some time to get organized for next year.

In the spirit of taking a break, I’m going off line for the holidays and will see you in 2018.  What are you doing for a holiday break?  What are you tips for unplugging during a break?

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  1. […] And Beth Kanter gives us a Holiday Vacation Exit Strategy: How To Take A Break. […]

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