How to Enjoy a Work Vacation Without Losing Your Mind

School might be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean work is (unless, of course, you work in the education system). But even if the majority of us don’t actually get a three-month hiatus from work every year, there’s still time for a vacation from work.

Man on Trip Taking a Break from Work

Ready for a quick vacation poll? When you get ready to go on vacation, do you:

  1. Stress out until the very last minute, wrapping up deadlines, and throwing clothes into your suitcase. 

    -or-

  2. Make a travel plan weeks in advance so you know who’s covering your work while you’re out of the office – along with a packing checklist ready to go a day or two ahead of your travel.

If you answered a), you are most likely in the majority of people who feel like they are rushed into their time off from work, and need a few days before they can truly relax when on vacation. Many employees skip taking their full benefits of time off altogether. Findings from Project: Time Off show that 54% of employees ended last year with unused vacation time. This doesn’t have to be you!

Depending on the number of work responsibilities you have, taking a break from work and preparing for PTO can feel like a job in itself to assure your work is covered and to help avoid any conflicts while you are away. The good news? You can go on vacation without feeling guilty! There are ways to combat this feeling of craziness before leaving on your trip, and tips to help you feel prepared for the onslaught of emails when you return from vacation.

  1. Review Your TasksAlert your team in advance of the days you have scheduled off. The chaos factor will most likely be determined by how many days you’ll be out of the office. If it is one or two days, it is likely you can work ahead and wrap up any forecasted situations before leaving the office. If you are out for an extended period of time, divide and delegate.

    Start with the tasks that have the most pressing due dates, then work with your manager and/or team to find areas where others can assist while you are out. The more you plan ahead, the less stress you will feel as your vacation days approach. You can then leave without feeling like you have forgotten something.

    There might be a to-do list waiting for you when you get back to work after vacation, but the more you prep yourself and your team, the better handle you will feel you have on your tasks.

    Coworkers Planning Getting Back to Work After Vacation

  2. Set Your OOOMake sure you set your “out of office” message to direct any pressing emails or phone calls to a manager or another team member while you are out. That way, the person sending the correspondence knows you are not ignoring their messages and know why there will be a delay in the response.

    This also allows for any potential “fires” to be escalated to your team and/or manager right away, rather than waiting for you when you get back or check your email. It is also a good reminder for other people within your company to know you are on a work vacation so they can adjust deadlines and/or expectations for different projects in your absence.

  3. Turn Off NotificationsPaid time off is designed for taking a break from work and your daily grind to recharge and reset, so you can come back to the office feeling more refreshed. If you continually work while on vacation, you will never get the opportunity to replenish the energy and motivation you may need to put your best foot forward.

    If you are in a position where going completely silent during vacation is unacceptable, designate one time every day when you will check your work emails or respond to notifications. This is better than having constant interruptions during time off of work. No matter how minor they may seem, the alert immediately takes you back to work when you are supposed to be enjoying time off. This can lead to job burnout and fatigue, which can lead to lower performance while in the office, and poor retention by employers. Use this time to also take a notification vacation.

  4. Don’t Talk About WorkVacation is vacation and work is work. That means when on vacation, try not to dwell on the deadlines that may be looming when you return. If you do decide to discuss work, try not to make it the focal point of conversations for those you are with. Even if you are taking a solo vacation, the last thing you should be thinking about is work.

    Plan your days to incorporate what will really help you relax. Maybe that is keeping busy with activities from sunup to sundown. Or maybe it is sleeping in, then lounging by the pool with a good book. Whichever way you like to vacation, make sure you are getting the downtime you need.

    Office Chair with Note for Work Vacation

  5. Mitigate Inbox OverloadOne reason why some people decide to check their email while on their time off is to not return to overflowing communication when getting back to work after vacation. Whether you decide to turn off notifications completely or not, when you return to your inbox post-vacation, the best approach is divide and conquer.

    Not all emails will require an immediate response. Prioritize your projects first. That will help determine which emails need to be responded to. Then, in the upcoming weeks, try arriving an hour earlier to get caught up. Also, reach out to your supervisor or co-workers and see where they may be able to assist. Not everything can be done in the first day you are back, and by creating that expectation for not only your team, but yourself as well, it will help you get back into the swing of things without feeling like you are going crazy with a flood of to-dos.

  6. Plan Something FunComing back to work after vacation and immediately diving headfirst into work again can feel deflating. Schedule a lunch with a co-worker or plan a night where you order takeout and catch up on TV shows, so you have something to look forward to when you get back from vacation.

Finding the work-life balance in your day-to-day can make it seem less extreme when you transition from work to vacation and vice-versa. Although at times it may not seem like it, there is a way you can enjoy your vacation without losing your mind. It may take some planning on your part, but it will feel well worth before, during, and after your time off. Then, all that is left to do is start counting down the days until your next work vacation.