Earlier this month, New Republic’s Bryce Covert published an article examining how America’s tendency toward overwork is hurting our economy. Covert’s numbers made some strong arguments, pointing out that the US is one of the only countries that does not guarantee employee vacation time or holidays, and that US workers who do receive time off are never likely to use all their allotted days.
When Americans do take a vacation, we often still feel the need to stay connected to work by checking email on our phones or bringing a laptop along “just in case.” Some of this is attributed to guilt – it’s easy to feel lazy if everyone on your team is scrambling to fix a sudden problem, and you’re the only one who’s not there to pitch in. But if you’re constantly checking in on the office, what’s the point of getting away?
If you’ve found yourself guilty of this in the past, try letting go of everything when you take your next trip. You’ll enjoy your time off so much more, and you’ll come back to work more rested and refreshed.
But to ensure a clean break, you’ll need to do some planning in the days leading up to your vacation. Here are a few tips for getting ready for going off the grid.
Communicate early and often
As soon as you know when you plan to take off, put your vacation on your team’s shared calendar. As your trip gets closer, email everyone on your team with your time-off dates. Be sure to specify that you will not be checking emails, and should only be contacted by phone for emergencies.
Delegate your tasks
Determine which common tasks are likely to occur during your absence, and choose an alternate contact for each. Send each of these contacts a brief note about your trip, and include any instructions they might need. If any training or knowledge transfer is needed, sit down with each contact in person a few days before you leave.
Setup an out-of-office reply
Write up a brief out-of-office reply email for your inbox, and schedule it for your vacation dates. Be sure to list any common issues that might come up, with the appropriate alternate contact name and email for each. For example: “For any issues related to the Acme Corp website project, please contact Jane Doe.”
Send a personal reminder
A few days before your vacation begins, send a reminder email to your team members, clients, and anyone else who may try to contact you. Be sure to include the alternate contacts from your out-of-office reply email.
Get your applications in order
Login to your issue tracker, customer support system, etc and make sure that your ongoing issues are reassigned to other users. If you’re typically the “gatekeeper” user for any of your systems, make sure that another user is reassigned to this role during your absence. Finally, make sure to disable all email notifications from these applications the day before you leave.
Put your phone in vacation mode
If you have a work-provided mobile phone, leave it behind (or at least turn it off). If your work mail account is setup on your personal phone, remove the mailbox or at least disable its notifications. Try to make it as difficult as possible to check your email – remember, you’ve established alternative contacts for your regular tasks, and everyone knows to contact you by phone for emergencies.
Now that you’ve sufficiently prepared, you can completely let go and enjoy your trip. It’ll be fantastic!