It’s that time of year when many workers are out of the office, enjoying time with family and a well-deserved break from the grind. Well, some workers are taking a break—but 57% of full-time employees plan to work at some point during their holiday break, according to a recent survey from online market research firm uSamp. And it’s not just a quick check-in. Almost half plan to spend two or more hours a day working.
But here’s the thing: One in three senior managers said taking too little time off was the biggest mistake they made with their last vacation, according to research from OfficeTeam. That was followed by not being able to get their mind off work (25%) and checking in with the office too much (22%).
Is it possible to truly disconnect while you’re away? Sure—with a little strategic planning. At the very least, you can reduce the amount of time you spend chained to your laptop. Here are some pointers:
Set expectations. If geography or activities will make it difficult for you to be available while you’re away, make sure your boss knows it. “Staying connected with work on vacation can be a slippery slope,” says Bill Peppler, managing partner at Kavaliro, a staffing agency in Orlando. “If you don’t plan to allocate a big percentage of vacation time to keeping up with office ongoings, explain to your boss that you may not be able to access email and Wi-Fi due to the location you’re traveling to.” That way, he or she will understand that your disconnectedness is out of your control.
Prepare ahead of time. Have a quick meeting with your coworkers prior to leaving, letting them know expectations on work as it relates to them. “So many employees go away with a big stack of paper on their desk and coworkers are left scrambling to find out where it is, is it done, did the supplier get called?” says Trevor Lamson, senior recruitment consultant for Connected Recruiting. “In a time where it is almost easier to just update people on the fly, more time needs to be taken to update people face to face, rather than letting them disturb us. The better you do that, the less you will be bugged.”
Set up a chain of command. Yes, you are important at work, but things are not necessarily going to implode if you’re not directly involved in an emergency. “Set up a chain of command if you are a manager or president,” Lamson says. “Aside from disastrous situations, most emergencies can be handled and should be handled by someone in the mindset to make the decision. If you are on the beach, is that really you?”
Establish a vacation routine. While it’s tempting to check email every 10 minutes, resist the urge. In the end, it will only lead coworkers to think you’re available all the time, even when you’re away. “I check email once a day, typically in the evenings,” says Rick Coplin, vice president of Community Partner Ventures at startup incubator Tech Columbus. “This slows my email response intentionally, if I choose to respond, reinforcing that I am off work.”
Tweak your vacation attitude. “Telling coworkers and bosses ‘Good luck reaching me while I’m away’ is not nearly as effective as ‘I plan on devoting my attention to my family or to the conference while away,’” Coplin says.
Change your phone settings. Nothing is more distracting than watching email after email pop up on your phone. “I turn off email notifications,” says Michelle Brammer, marketing and PR manager for online advertising company eZanga. “It eliminates feeling the urge to check email when I see the flashing light or ding. If I am not expecting personal calls or communication, I will place my phone on silent as well.”
Consider turning to text. “For people that need to reach me for an emergency, I ask that they text me,” Brammer says. “Therefore the phone call is not obtrusive to my vacation and family time, and I can answer them as needed. Plus, I am likely to see a text long before an email, alerting me to the issue ahead of time.”
Leave an out-of-office message. If you’re away, let people know you’re away. “Have an email auto-response and voicemail that explicity explain what to do if they contact you, when you will be back, that you do not have access to emails, and who to contact if they need immediate assistance,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., consultant and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Steps to Crush your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. That way contacts aren’t twiddling their thumbs and thinking you’re ignoring their messages.
Trust the process. People think, “My client is going to fire me if I don’t respond immediately to their request,” Lombardo says. “In reality, you teach people how you will be treated. More often I find that clients respect your asserted desire to be unplugged.”
Exercise good judgment. None of this is helpful if you work for a company where everyone is uber-available on vacation, or if an important event is anticipated and you are critical to its success or failure. “To disappear is to risk being viewed as not taking your job seriously enough,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. Plan vacations during quiet periods in your company’s calendar.
This article was written by Kate Ashford from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.