In recent years, one thing has become clear: Americans kind of suck at taking vacations—and it’s really no wonder why. Taking time off work is meant to help us recharge and leave the stress of meetings and emails behind. But the reality is that we spend our beach vacation absent-mindedly responding to emails or side-stepping the family potato sack race just in case that work call is something urgent. No matter how far in advance we book our tickets or reserve our hotels, work always seems to sneak in on the precious time we intended to take off.
What’s a vacationer to do? While there’s still some summer left, here are a few tips to help you prepare for a work-free, bliss-filled vacation.
Designate a Second
Before you take off to Bermuda, ask someone who works closely with you to be your second-in-command while you’re away. While you can’t be reached, your Second can take your meetings, field questions, and catch you up when you get back. You can even return the favor when it’s their turn to soak up some sun.
If you really want to unplug, you can even give your Second access to your Inbox so no important message gets missed (and you can turn off your email notifications). From the File tab in Outlook, just click Account Settings, then Delegate Access.
Give Enough Heads-Up
Vacations are fun. You know what’s not fun? Arriving to work on Monday and realizing your manager is backpacking through a reception-free forest and didn’t leave any instructions.
Let your immediate team know when you’re leaving town at least two weeks in advance if you can swing it, and designate all must-handle activities before jetting off. Make sure your Out of Office message and voicemail clearly state who to work with in your absence (your Second) so the chain of command is clear.
Yeah, we know—it’s hard to totally disconnect. But instead of staying glued to your phone and monitoring emails and calls as they come in, set a designated time during the day or evening when you’ll do a quick run-through of what’s hit your Inbox. If you’re leaving your team during a particularly stressful time, consider blocking off a designated half-hour of your day so they can call and ask questions. Then stick to your limits. It’s good for you.
Lose the guilt
You’ve earned your time off, so don’t let it go to waste. Employees who use their vacation days do better personally and professionally, meaning your precious PTO is really an investment in a more relaxed, more productive new you.