Shutting off and taking a break from work is so important. Summer is the perfect time to unplug from work, so that you can recharge and ward off burnout. But we know that it’s hard to turn off those email notifications. That’s why Niche Movement Contributing Editor Megan Gillman put together her top three tips for taking a true vacation.
Last July I had planned a fun trip home to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. I had tickets to fly to New Jersey with my husband for a much-needed break from the Florida heat, and I had three tickets to see Taylor Swift in concert with my sister and our friend.
As my husband and I walked to our gate at the Jacksonville Airport, ready to take a week away from our jobs and responsibilities, my cell phone rang.
It was a number I didn’t recognize, but because of all our recent travel arrangements, I figured I would answer it. Just in case.
It was my boss.
“Did you order catering for 35 people to be delivered today?”
Apparently, a mystery catering delivery had shown up in our building for a special event. I had, of course, not placed the order. Nor did I know who did. But because I normally shouldered the event-planning load, they figured I was the one to call to help solve this mystery.
Even though I was on day 1 of my week off.
This is just one example of how our employers and coworkers may expect us to be available even when we are not working. Even if they aren’t calling you directly, though, it can be hard to completely tune out from the goings-on in your workplace while on vacation.
If you’re really hoping to use your vacation time to relax and recharge, instead of adding on to your stress, try some of these tips for your next scheduled vacay!
Turn off your notifications
Sure it’s convenient to have your work email and calendar available at your fingertips! But you’re on break. Off the clock. Hopefully, you’re on a beach somewhere with the sand between your toes! You do not need to be seeing all the meeting invites or mass-emails that are pinging back and forth between your colleagues. You can always read them after your break before you come back into the office.
So, whatever your preferred mail app, dive on into your smartphone settings and turn your notifications OFF! If you really can’t bear to keep off email entirely, you’ll at least have to choose to actively open the app and check your email. At least you won’t have the constant pinging reminding you how full your inbox will be once your vacation is done!
Set clear expectations in your auto response
The most common auto response I’ve seen from colleagues is some variation on the following:
“I’m out of the office until Friday, July 12th. I will have limited access to email during this time, but will respond as soon as I am able. All emails will be answered in the order they were received.”
I understand we all want to be helpful, but be honest. How many of the emails that come in when you are out-of-office could be answered simply by checking your organization’s website or Facebook page? How many could be answered by a colleague? By the receptionist?
Do yourself and your clients a favor by telling them how they can get their questions answered quickly!
Here’s a template of how it might look:
“I’m out of the office and will have limited access to email until Friday, July 12th. If you have questions during this time, please feel free to call our main office at XXX-XXX-XXXX, or email my colleague, Sam, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need further assistance, please reach out to me again once I return.
This method can help you avoid returning to a full inbox and days of trying to catch up by slugging through it all. Emergency situations can be taken care of in your absence, and you can effectively start at inbox zero once you return, as you’ve taken the responsibility for responding A.S.A.P. off your newly-rested shoulders and put it back on your client by letting them know exactly when they can reach out to you again.
Put your phone in Do Not Disturb
You may or may not already be familiar with the beauty and wonder of your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” setting. If not, let me enlighten you. Your phone has a setting that will stop all notifications about incoming texts, emails, phone calls, and more for a period of time that you choose. It’s wonderful. (I started using it while I was teaching yoga classes because my Mom has an uncanny ability to call me exactly in the middle of teaching while my phone is plugged into the speaker system providing music to the class. Trust me, it is not relaxing to be in the middle of Warrior 1 and then to hear a very loud ring tone cutting through the peaceful atmosphere!)
It is also not very peaceful to be on a vacation or trip and to constantly be bombarded with text messages, email notifications, and phone calls of things happening back in the office. Unless you’re actually on call, try turning on Do Not Disturb for most of the day, and set aside only one hour each day to respond to work calls or messages. If you’re feeling really confident, you can refuse to respond to them at all! You are on vacation, after all.
Do Not Disturb mode also has several options, so you can choose to allow calls from certain contacts (those who are on vacation with you, for example), or allow calls if the same number calls back twice within 5 minutes. It’s a great way to set boundaries and clear expectations about who should be able to reach you when you’re out of the office.
A final word of wisdom:
If you’ve read these tips and you’re now thinking “well that’s fine and good for most people, but I’m management” or “I’m the boss!” or “I’m indispensable!”, then it is even more important that you try these, or some other version, of setting clear boundaries around your out-of-office time.
If you’re in a position of leadership at work, then you are the example others will follow. Your behavior, on some level, will set the standards for what other employees believe is O.K. and if they see you constantly responding to emails while on vacation, they will assume you expect them to do the same.
I hope that you’ll try at least one, if not all, of these tips when you take your next vacation to help you enjoy a truly relaxing and refreshing break from work.