Take a Real Vacation:
Unplug Yourself from the Office
Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
Terri worked for a busy corporate office, often putting in 80-hour
weeks to please her supervisors and clients. She was constantly on
her laptop or checking her messages via her Blackberry. When it came
time for a vacation, Terri’s husband finally convinced her take a
weeklong cruise – without her Blackberry.
Unfortunately for Terri’s husband, the cruise ship provided access
to the Internet and soon Terri was skipping breakfast to check a few
e-mails or would cut dinner short to review the last messages from
the office. She couldn’t relax while on vacation – in fact, she
began to feel anxious about missing an important call or meeting.
Terri was so used to being connected to the office, that she
couldn’t enjoy her first “real” vacation with her husband. She came
back to the office cranky, tired and anxious to catch up, instead of
feeling rested and energized.
Sadly, Terri’s story isn’t unusual.
According to a recent Associated Press survey, one of five
respondents pack a laptop when going on vacation. One presumes so
they pack the laptop so they can work. Instead of taking time off to
enjoy a break from work, it seems Americans are spending more time
in front of the computer, Blackberry or cell phone, desperately
trying to stay in the loop with their office.
The sad reality is that while
technology makes it easier for us to connect, it also makes it
harder for us to unplug when away from work, creating stress and
leading to burnout. So how can you train your brain to relax? What
can you do to stay away from those addictive Blackberries and
laptops? Here are a few tips to practice the next time you plan your
escape from the office:
1. Realize that technology is
partly to blame. Technology makes it easier for us to keep in
touch, so make it harder to check your office e-mails or voicemails
by leaving the technology at home. Avoid taking your Blackberry with
you on vacation, or if you feel like having a panic attack just
thinking about it, at least turn it off during meals and outings.
2. Plan ahead. One of the
reasons you might be checking in so often is because you feel
insecure about your position at work. However, with a little extra
planning, you can make yourself feel less anxious and more ready to
relax. Have a meeting with your assistant, or if you don’t have one,
talk with your supervisor and colleagues to discuss what might
happen when you leave. Are you expecting any phone calls? Are there
any client issues to resolve? Does something need to be mailed out?
Get it taken care of ahead of time, so you won’t spend your vacation
3. Learn to delegate. If
you’re not lucky enough to have an assistant or secretary, ask
someone you trust to help you with specific tasks while you’re out
of the office. The tasks may be as small as checking your e-mails
once a day, or it might be a request to put out any potential fires.
It will help you sleep better at night if you know a trustworthy
“someone” is looking out for your interests at work.
4. Notify the VIPs. Let
your clients know at least a week in advance that you will be out of
the office and likely unreachable. This way, you can clarify any of
their issues before you leave, or set up a time to discuss them when
you get back. Provide your clients with any contacts who might be
able to help them or answer questions while you are gone, such as
your secretary or a co-worker.
5. Make your vacation plans
ahead of time, with you in mind. If you’re one of those people
who can’t stand the thought of being away from the office, book your
vacation months ahead of time, or even a year ahead. For example, an
advertising executive in New York books her vacation a year and a
half ahead of time – buys the plane tickets and hotel reservations –
just so she won’t back out of it. Also, consider vacationing
somewhere remote, like the mountains, where there isn’t immediate
access to radio, TV or the Internet. It will force you to unplug.
6. Determine the timing that
works best. Depending on your industry, it can be an advantage
or a disadvantage to take a vacation during the high travel season.
Most of the time, everyone vacations during the holidays between
Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years. If you think
about it, missing work at the same time as everyone else might work
in your favor. However, this also might be your busy period, if you
work in retail, customer service or other industries, so you might
feel even more stressed. It boils down to this: Consider your
industry and the timing of your next vacation.
7. Let the computer do your work.
Before you leave for vacation, set up an auto-response message that
lets people know you’ll be out of the office, for how long and who
to contact in case they need help. Do the same for your office
voicemail and cell phone.
8. Set a limit of once a day. If
you absolutely must work while you are on vacation, limit yourself
to one hour each day, just to check your voicemails and e-mails.
When you check in every hour or can’t
seem to disconnect from the office, you’re allowing stress to build
up, instead of releasing it. Vacations are likened to “recharging
one’s batteries," but the re-energizing process can’t happen if you
feel like you’re still part of the daily grind.
In addition, working on your vacation
means you miss out on the long-term benefits of rest and relaxation,
which can lead to increased productivity and profits when you return
to the office. And if nothing else, remember no one likes working
with cranky, tired, worn out people.
Read other articles and learn more about
Nancy D. O’Reilly.
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and