Taking time off can be a challenge. However, with some preparation and clear boundaries, you can avoid working on your vacation.
What kind of memories do you want from your next vacation? The view from your terrace like in the cover photo above or a blurry memory of your hotel room like in the photo below?
I think I know your answer to my question. The sad reality is that, according to a survey from 2013, more than 60% of US workers are working during vacation. The European numbers are somewhere around 40%.
How to avoid working on your vacation
A little bit of planning and common sense is all you need to avoid working on your vacation. It is really all about preparation. Make it as easy as possible to be away from work, and have a strategy for how to handle it if you really need to put in some working time.
What to do before leaving work
Make life easier for your colleagues
Inform your colleagues about your vacation plans. Make sure to agree on who is covering what while you are away. If you can, it’s much better to spread the tasks among several of your colleagues. Don’t forget that other people are busy too. It’s much easier to say yes to handling some important customers that it is to say yes to do your complete job while you have time off.
Do not forget to inform key customers about that you are taking time off and that one of your co-workers will be the go-to-guy in your absence. If you have to give your customers permission to call you in your vacation time it helps to have already decided when you want to be available. (See below.)
What to do if you have no backup
If you are working by yourself and do not have anyone who can pick up the slack while you are slacking, planning is even more important. If you are both the CEO, director of marketing and the secretary, think long and hard about which roles are so important that they cannot go on a one week vacation.
Inform people about who to contact when you are away
Be sure to state clearly in your auto-reply message and voicemail message that you are on vacation and will be back on a given date. If you are checking in from time to time, say that too.
“His this is John. I’m on vacation but will be back on the 26th. If it’s urgent, please leave a message. I will check my messages in the afternoon every workday.”
Do what you really have to get done before you leave
“Is it anything you need me to do before I’m leaving?” This simple question can make the difference between a vacation and a workation.
Turn off reminders
Even if you know you have to work during vacation, turn off all email and calendar reminders. Nothing is more distracting than being reminded about the meeting at work that you cannot attend anyway. Concentrating on reading a book is much easier without the occasional email ding from your phone. If you are afraid of forgetting to turn on the reminders when returning to work, set an alarm on your phone.
Need a good book for your vacation? Read 7 books you really need to read.
What to do if you have to work on your vacation
The most important thing is to be open about the fact that you have to work. Don’t try to hide this from your partner or family. This creates unnecessary tension and bad consciousness. Equally important is setting boundaries for what you have to do and when you have to do it.
Be as concrete as possible. You are going to handle critical issues for about 15 minutes during the morning and afternoon on weekdays only. If you communicate this to your colleagues and customers, as well as your friends and family, everyone knows what to expect.
By doing this, you will be able to take time off every day knowing that you have fulfilled your obligations at work, and thus not have to worry about this while spending time with friends and family.
Ask if it can wait until you are back
Just because someone called you on a Friday does not mean that they need it by Monday. You will be surprised about the power of the following question: “Can it wait until I’m back from vacation?” Everybody knows that feeling of having to leave the beach due to some crisis at work. Everyone that has been through this remembers the reaction from their friends or family members. No one wants to be that customer causing you to spend hours away from your family.
Now that you know avoid working on your vacation, read How to prepare yourself to get back to work after vacation.