Mobile phones and 24/7 connectivity blur the lines between personal and work time, especially during summer break or vacation. And according to recent polls, some 62% of people check their work email while on vacation. And that can ruin your time at the beach and more importantly prevent you from reaping the full benefits of taking break.
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. We learned that taking a technology break during this time can help accelerate the benefits of time off.
One reason that people don’t take completely disconnected 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 hard for many of us not to check our work email once we put that out of office message on.
It is time for a shift in perspective. Tell yourself that taking a vacation is good for your mental health and even better if you disconnect from work. Tell yourself that you’ll return to work more creative, energized, and resilient. Here are some tips for unplugging from work during a summer vacation:
- Prep Your Getaway: Before your beach getaway, 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 take off so you can get back to them or get that task done or delegated. Try to clear out your email box as much as possible before you leave so you won’t be met with a mess when you return. It’ll help you shift out of work mode before you leave for vacation, too.
- Scramble Your Apps: We have something called “Thumb Memory.” One way to avoid falling back into work email without knowing it, is to remove your work email or at least put it and other work apps on the last screen of your phone. (Also a good idea to remove or scramble your social media and other apps.)
- Remove notifications: Also, remove all notifications from your apps – that way you won’t be tempted when you notification flash up.
- Bounce Message: Put a bounce message on your email letting people know that you are out and won’t get back to them until after your return from your vacation. While it might be tempting to include a humorous bounce message, let people know you won’t be responding. Add a few days to your bounce message, so when you come back, you won’t feel obligated to respond to everything at once.
- Include Emergency Contact: Let key people know how to reach you in case of a real emergency which might be calling or texting immediately. This will help reduce your worries that you’re missing something urgent.
- Delegate: For specific projects or needs, point people elsewhere during your absence. Be specific in your out-of-office response who should be contracted for what.
- 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: Reading your email is different than responding to email. Try not to engage, just read and focus on deleting and clearing out. Try to avoid having it ruin your vacation mood too. Also, answer your email when you are alone, perhaps 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at the end of the day. More tips here.
- Have An Accountability Buddy: Make a deal with your family or other travel partners that if they see you on your phone responding to a message it is work-related (yes, they can look at your phone), you owe them $5 or will pay for dinner.
- 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.
These tips apply to What’s App, Slack and texting for work during your vacation too! To get the full restorative benefits of a vacation, take a technology break and set boundaries about responding to work emails and texts.
I will be taking a summer vacation shortly and look forward to using these techniques to help me disconnect and recharge. What are your tips for unplugging during your summer vacation? Come join me for a free webinar on Wednesday where I will share tips for avoiding nonprofit burnout.