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June 22, 2015

Use Your Vacation Days and Take a Real Summer Vacation, Not a Workcation

Summer has rolled around again, and that well-deserved time off is waiting for you. But will you even take it? If you do, will you end up setting up your office on the beach, busily answering emails and phone calls while your family begs for your attention?

If you’re like many U.S. workers, you’ll try the office on the beach approach. A number of new studies tell the story: taking a real vacation is becoming a tough feat for many of us.I know how many of you feel. I used to balk at taking time off, particularly in the early years of growing my business. I felt like even one day away from the office could put me seriously behind on my goals to advance my business, especially given that my work is all about client service.

Yet over time, I started paying more attention to the research on the value of vacations. I started thinking that a real vacation could actually impact my work in a far more positive way than I might have suspected. 

So, a few years ago, I gave it a shot.  I took a vacation and disconnected from email. I couldn’t believe how liberating it felt.  And it happened because I gave myself permission—and set myself up—to step away from work, knowing if an issue arose, my team knew how to get in touch with me.  Now, I disconnect from email on every vacation. I also come back to work refreshed and energized, and even more committed to creative ideas to move my business forward.

Anyone can do it and everyone should. Going into your vacation, plan not to access to email, and not engage with work. Let’s face it: If your vacation spot didn’t have email access, you’d not only survive, but you’d pretty quickly adapt and embrace your badly-needed vacation. 

Here’s how I rationalize: Being present in person and through technology is important for our colleagues when we’re at work.  It’s just as important to be present for ourselves and our families when we’re on vacation. Work can wait a week.

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Despite my experience, I know I’m fighting a major trend with my suggestion here. There’s mouting evidence today that U.S. employees have a real hard time taking full advantage of their paid time off, if they are taking it at all.

A 2014 CNN study stated that “Americans Are Taking Fewest Vacation Days in Four Decades.” According to their study, “American workers turned their backs on a total of 169 million days of paid time off, in effect ‘providing free labor for their employers, at an average of $504 per employee,’.” Essentially, Americans feel as though they are so buried in work that they are unable dig themselves out to cash in on their paid time off.

To quote a recent 2015 Skift article, “American is stuck in no-vacation land […]the overwhelming answer this year in 2015 is almost exactly the same as we got last year: about 62 percent said they won’t be taking a vacation this summer at all. What does it leave organizations with? Burned out employees that cannot deliver their best work.

This chart rendered from a 2015 Times article depicts the seemingly intractable, disturbing decline of Annual Vacation Days Used Among Employed Adults.This habit of throwing away paid time off certainly seems to be trending among employees today.

So, what’s the impact of all these workers not taking a real day off? It turns out, there’s plenty of evidence that the lack of time off impacts a worker’s level of stress, productivity, and engagement. In the worst case scenario, employees may get so burned out that they will leave your organization. 

As an added motivation to plan a vacation, an article in a 2014 Gallup issue suggests that “Taking Regular Vacations May Help Boost American’s Well-Being.” Based on their data, Gallup’s key takeaway was that, “Regardless of income, Americans who make time for vacations or trips with family and friends have higher overall well-being than those who don't. Some studies suggest that vacation time has positive effects on the brain and heart, and could ultimately lower healthcare costs -- which would be good news for employers.”

So, how do we take the time off we should be taking in the first place? The first step is to disconnect. One of the biggest problems today is that people are not able to successfully take vacations because they take their work with them. It is impossible to relax and recharge if you are tethered to your office through email. The Grossman Group’s Email-Free Vacation Pledge is designed to walk you through, step-by-step, a way to fully disconnect from email with the least amount of stress.

Think about those times when you’re not available during working hours.  Most often, work problems get figured out without your intervention, so while it can be difficult, don’t waste your precious vacation time worrying. I’m urging you to join me and take the Email-Free Vacation Pledge in order to take full advantage of your essential summer vacation. For me, it’s a reminder that my family is important and that email can wait.  Cold turkey might not work for everyone, but you never know until you commit to it, and try.

--David Grossman

 

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Looking for more ways to control email in your life? Download the free tip sheet, 10 Dos and Don'ts of Email, by clicking the image below.

10 dos donts email tip sheet

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