Whew! It’s been a wild rollercoaster of a year, hasn’t it? As we begin to emerge at the other side of this pandemic, it’s time to talk about taking a break. Sure, you may not have set foot in your physical office for 15 months (give or take a few), but you worked. Not only did you work, but you juggled the stress and worry related to the pandemic. You juggled virtual school for yourself and your children. You need a vacation. A real vacation. One that involves suitcases and traveling to a place you can’t visit and return from in a single day.
We’re moving into a new kind of existence. This one merges elements of the lives we enjoyed before “facemask,” “social distancing,” and “Covid-19” were part of our regular vocabularies with some of the new habits we adopted across the last year. Even if you were a regular vacation-taker before the pandemic (and according to statistics about the volume of unused vacation days in the US, you may not have been), scheduling time off now may look a little different than it did then. If you’re like a lot of other Americans who didn’t fully utilize your days off, you can benefit from the following tips, too.
Why Do I Need to Take Time Off?
As we’ve shared before, research says you can’t afford not to take time off. In fact, a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard University found that taking a week of vacation can yield genetic changes that reduce stress and boost your immune system for up to 30 days. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Another study out of Northwestern University discovered that downtime can help us solve problems faster and increase our creativity. Basically, your health and your productivity need you to shut it down for a week and enjoy a break from your every day.
Plan With Flexibility
The world is reopening, but not everything is up and running yet. Do your due diligence and make sure the locations you want to visit are ready to greet tourists again. Understand travel restrictions to the areas you’d like to get to. Will you need proof of vaccination and/or documentation of a negative Covid test? Will you need to quarantine on either end of the trip to this particular locale? Are the things you want to see and do ready to be seen and done? Your bucket list trip may need to wait a little longer, that doesn’t mean your vacation does.
Take the Week and Go
Yes, there are benefits to any downtime and if you opt to take a day here and a day there, it’s better than not taking any time. Consider, however, taking at least a full week off and to take that time some place away from home. Staycations can be fun; they can also quickly devolve into a time to check off all those items on your home repair and yard work list if you’re not careful. They also mean you’re still accessible to all those folks and activities that know where you live. The call from the coach to cover as team parent for a last-minute make-up game, the neighbor that needs a hand with a project, the friend that just wants to drop by, can easily derail your plans to recharge and reconnect with those folks living in your household. Going away takes you out of the loop and you need that. Trust us on this one.
Skip the Tech
One thing we’ve learned this past year (if we didn’t already know it) is that technology does a fantastic job at keeping us connected and working no matter where we are. Don’t let that encroach on your vacation. You do not need to jump on the staff meeting over Zoom from your cabin in the mountains. You do not need to check email from the beach. You don’t even have to return voicemail from the line at the amusement park. You are out of the office for the week. Stay out even if tech would let you sneak it in. Be in the moment. Be on vacation.
Let your colleagues, your employees, your clients and anyone else that may regularly seek you out in the workplace that you’ll be out of pocket for the week. Complete tasks that can only be done by you ahead of time. Hand off jobs someone else can juggle for the week before you go. Let folks know who to go to for answers while you’re gone. Update your voicemail and your auto-responder on email with an out of office message, and give clear direction on who else may help until you get back. And then walk out the door and don’t jump back into the fray until your vacation is over.
Pass It On
You benefit from taking time off. We showed you the research about that above. Here’s the thing you need to remember as a leader: your employees benefit from time off for the same reasons. Plus, content, re-focused, re-invigorated, less stressed employees benefit your organization. Encourage your staff to take their PTO. It’s not just a perk for them. It’s a benefit for you.