Everyone needs a vacation. Taking a much-needed break is necessary in today's working world. If you don't, you'll begin to lack passion and energy.
However, many employees fail to use their vacation time, allowing it to go unused by the end of the year. For those who do opt to take a vacation, many often spend time on their devices, checking work emails and answering business calls – even though doing so leads to burnout in the long run.
"Despite their apprehensions, employees should keep in mind that taking vacation is key to fighting burnout and maintaining a solid work-life balance," said Vip Sandhir, CEO and founder of HighGround. "Vacations help employees combat the stress that a full-time job can create, making workers more engaged and ready to do great work upon their return." [Feeling overworked? Here's how to improve your work-life balance right now.]
The impact of disconnecting
The advantages of time away from work are plentiful: Taking a vacation can lower stress levels, improve creativity, reduce your risk of heart disease, improve fitness and extend life expectancy, according to Matador Network.
Though you get time on the weekends to decompress, between family responsibilities and household needs, the weekends may not be enough, said Jon Loew, founder and CEO of video messaging platform KeepTree.
"Companies expect more from their employees than ever, so a week-long vacation is the perfect opportunity to recharge," Loew told Business News Daily. "When you are out of the office for an extended period of time, it gives you the chance to re-evaluate things without being distracted by day-to-day requirements."
Properly planning ahead of your vacation can decrease your stress level as you exit the office for your time away. To do so, Sandhir advised taking the following steps:
- Know your company's policy. You should understand your company's guidelines on vacation days, said Sandhir. Familiarize yourself with the process of requesting time off to ensure there are no miscommunications.
- Plan around your workload (and your team's needs). Calculate the most convenient time to take off. For instance, schedule a vacation after you complete a project or when your co-workers aren't swamped with work. You don't want to dump a heavy workload on colleagues.
- Provide plenty of notice. Before your vacation is set in stone, have your manager approve the days you'll be out. Notify your supervisor and employees ahead of time, at least three weeks in advance.
Shortly before you leave, create a succinct, out-of-office message, said Alex Moore, CEO of Boomerang.
"At [a] minimum, it should include who to contact for urgent matters while you're away, how long you'll be away and how disconnected from email you will be," Moore said. "I also recommend including a note that if something is important but nonurgent, the sender should email you again after you return so that you can give it prompt attention."
It can be tempting to check your work email while you're away, especially if you're used to doing so during off hours and on weekends. The best way to prepare to completely disconnect from work before you head out for vacation is to practice it daily after you leave the office.
"People think that their cell phones provide them with freedom, but it's actually a tether that keeps a work-related stimulus flowing to our brains," said Loew. "I block off time, particularly when I first get home, so I can focus on my family. After everyone else goes to sleep, I'll check my email one last time."
As a boss, you can lead by example and encourage employees to disconnect as well.
"I always suggest to employees that they avoid checking email during their vacation," Loew said. "I tell them if it's something urgent that only they can help with, we will call them."
Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.