Tracy Brower, Contributor
July 18, 2022
If you’re like 68% of people, you work on vacation and have a hard time detaching—because you’re feeling overworked and under pressure to work constantly. But working all the time with no chance to turn off, get away or take a break can reduce your happiness, wellbeing and even your effectiveness at work.
Ironically, detaching makes you better—with your family and friends and also in your work.
Pressure to be Always On
According to a global study by Skynova , on average, Americans take 14 days off per year and Europeans take 24 days per year. In addition, 91% of Americans report their workload prevented them from taking the time off they needed. Workloads prevented employees in Europe from taking time off as well. Specifically, 88% of German employees, 87% of employees in Spain, and 81% of workers in both France and the United Kingdom.
The inability to unplug is exacerbated by the convenience and availability of tech and devices. A study by Passportphoto Online found 68% of people use their smartphones for work while they’re traveling and 62% said the use of their device for work on vacation made it tough to recharge or relax. In addition, people felt they need to check in because of expectations at work. Fully 60% say their boss expects them to check in, and 55% report they feel pressure to respond while they’re away, even if formal policies don’t require it .
And people have remorse about checking in, with 66% of people saying they wish they’d been out of touch on vacation, rather than connected.
The Need to Detach
But for all the continued connection occurring while on vacation, it’s not doing people any favors. In fact, failing to disconnect can cause problems for wellbeing and effectiveness at work. On the other hand, when you’re able to get away, you enhance mental and emotional health by reducing stress. You improve personal relationships by investing time with family and friends, and you even impact your physical health through the reduction of neurological chemicals which can impact negatively on your physical wellness.
It’s also important to note that getting away makes you more effective in your work. For many people, staying connected is a way they are seeking to prove their commitment and engagement, and demonstrate strong performance. But taking time away will make you better at your job because it reduces pressure, allowing you to think better. It also expands your perspectives , helping you to be more creative and better at solving problems. Getting away can also make you a more positive colleague or leader—someone people want to be around and support—because taking time off can reduce your intensity.
According to the Skynova study, feeling supported at work , in terms of time off and wellbeing are critical to both satisfaction and productivity. When employees feel very supported at work, 92% say they are satisfied, compared to only 59% who say the same when they don’t receive support. Productivity is impacted as well. When employees have sufficient time off, 58% say they’re productive, but without sufficient time off, only 26% say they’re working to their full productivity.
How to Detach
When you’re trying to detach start with these tactics.
#1 – Perform Brilliantly
It’s always easier to get away when you have a high level of credibility among colleagues, so set the stage for a vacation by always doing your best and performing well. When people see you’re a great contributor , they won’t question your need to detach to stay on top of your game.
#2 – Set Expectations
When you’re getting away on vacation, be clear with your team and your organization about the period of time you’ll be gone and your intention to turn off. Get things in order before you go and ensure you have people who will be backup while you’re gone.
#3 – Get Out of Mind
Turn off notifications, ensuring you’re turning off the pings and dings which will draw you back into work. Temporarily move your icons for work-related apps so they’re less visible, and you’re less tempted to check in. Also avoid work-related social media. You may wish to avoid all social media, but at a minimum, avoid the social media that makes you think of work.
#4 – Start Strong
Checking in at work can be a vicious cycle. If you check in and discover a problem on day one of your vacation, solving it may bleed into day two, and so on. Instead, resist the urge to check in and remind yourself about how people are capable and empowered back at work to deal with challenges. When you don’t check in, their momentum in addressing emerging issues can build and you can avoid inserting yourself back into the fray.
#5 – Keep a List
If thoughts of work are swirling as you begin your time away, give yourself permission to capture them so you can set them aside. Use a non-work-related notepad-type app to list the things you don’t want to forget. Often, writing something down can help you put it out of your mind so you can put all your energy into relaxing.
#6 – Fill Your Time
One of the reasons you may be tempted to check in with work is to create a distraction for yourself. Plan ahead for how you’ll fill your time when you’re away. Download all the books you’ve been wanting to read. Plan an adventurous excursion with your family, or rent a cabana on the beach so you can have a front row seat for being mesmerized by the waves.
#7 – Value Your People
Overall, make decisions about how you spend your time based on your values. Remind yourself about your impact on the people around you. In addition to valuing and empowering others back at work when you’re not checking in, you’re also sending positive messages to your family and friends when you’re attentive and invested in spending time with them. Focusing on the people in your personal life will be rewarding for them, and of course, for you.
It can be tough to get away. You want to work effectively, and you feel immersed in your job. But you’ll be better when you can take a breath, get some space and find a new perspective. Consider how you’ll bring new viewpoints to the challenges you face at work. Embrace the ways you’ll be a more relaxed and happy colleague when you come back rejuvenated from a vacation where you haven’t been checking in.
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