You Look Like You Need a Vacation

6 tips for checking out and kicking back

Back Commentary Feb 2, 2015 By Christine Calvin

You just got back from a trip? Me too. And I already need the next one. My name is Christine Calvin, and I take vacations. That’s right, I use all my PTO every year, and I don’t feel an ounce of shame. You should do the same — it’s going to cost your company either way.

Sitting down to write this letter (48 hours after landing stateside), I read a rather dry but informative report published in the journal Sleep that took a look at the economic impacts of being tired. Lack of sleep, according to the report, “was significantly associated with lost work performance due to presenteeism”  — that’s showing up for work when you’re not really ‘with it’ — at a rate equivalent to 11.3 days of lost work performance. According to the researchers, working when your brain is fried costs your company about $2,280 a year. Nationwide, that equates to $63.2 billion.

See how much money your company would save if you would just leave for a week or two?

So you’re tired, lacking creativity and racking up vacation hours all the while, and yet many of you still aren’t taking time off. Expedia.com recently released the results of its annual Vacation Deprivation study, which polls vacation habits among thousands of employed adults across Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and South America. Not surprisingly, the report shows Europeans, as usual, enjoy more vacation time than the rest of us, earning nearly twice as many paid vacation days (28 yearly) as Americans.

U.S. workers were given approximately 15 days off in the past year and took 14. I was actually surprised by that, considering the number of colleagues I have who didn’t take any time off in 2014. But it did make sense when I got to the part in the report that said 54 percent of Americans feel “very or somewhat” vacation deprived.

So why is it so difficult for us to take vacation when studies show that time away from work improves our health and boosts company outcomes? I think, in part, it most certainly relates to a tech-obsessed culture that insists we respond to bosses, clients, vendors, spouses, parents and strangers as soon as possible, lest we be perceived as ineffective or lax. We never turn off.

You really need to take one if not two vacations in 2015. You’ll love it, your significant other will appreciate it and your coworkers will be glad to have a week or two without your emails and dumb jokes. If you’re concerned about how to handle a seamless vacation transition, allow me to offer some tips:

1.) Clear the plate. Wipe everything clean before you leave — literally. File and organize every single paper on your desk, and clean your keyboard, mouse and workspace with a wet wipe. Get your inbox and voicemails down to zero. If applicable, write a long and detailed email to your staff addressing the status and expectations of any projects or tasks you’ll be walking away from.

2.) Check in, but don’t dive in. Once every three days or so, check your work email for the sole purpose of keeping the weeds out. Clear out useless items, and respond briefly only to the most urgent matters. Give yourself a 30-minute time limit.

3.) Return on a Friday and unpack ASAP. Give yourself an entire weekend to readjust your clock, stock the fridge, sort the mail, unpack, do laundry, pick up the dog and get your life in order.

4.) No appointments on Monday. If you’ve been gone a week, leave yourself a full work day to get through your inbox, powwow with your staff and get back up to speed. If you’ve been gone two weeks, give yourself two days before scheduling meetings.

5.) Accomplish something. On your first day back in the office, take care of an actual, concrete task other than answering emails. Check something substantial off the to-do list so you’ll feel productive and re-engaged.

6.) Get your next trip on the calendar.

When was the last time you took a vacation? Take our poll, because we want to know. 

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Checking Out

When was your last vacation?

Expedia.com recently released a report report showing Europeans earn nearly twice as many paid vacation days (28 yearly) as Americans, and that 54 percent of Americans feel “very or somewhat” vacation deprived. So when was the last time you took some time off? 

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Working Holiday

How to take a vacation without anyone knowing

The reality is that independent workers don’t get paid vacations, and often don’t have the option to not work. But that shouldn’t come at the cost of leisure—it just means getting a bit more creative with the ever-elusive work-life balance. So, how do you take a trip without anyone knowing?

Aug 29, 2014 Janna Maron

Dream On

10 tips for the sleep-deprived, one of which might ruin your life

Let me take a wild guess: You feel like you don’t get enough sleep. Too much to do, you’re stressed out and you think getting eight hours of sleep is about as realistic as keeping current on Oprah’s Book Club. Or maybe you’re annoyed that your body needs too much sleep? Think of all the workouts you could get in, books you could read and emails you could return with a few extra hours in each day. Wouldn’t we all love to train our bodies to require less sleep?

Nov 4, 2014 Jeff Wilser

New Year’s No’s

Let’s make a list some goals to avoid

This year, I’m focusing on “no.” It’s a magical word rarely used when it comes to answering work emails on vacation, committing to stuff you swore you would avoid and attending events that drain productivity from your day. And for what? If you count the number of really valuable nonmandatory meetings, networking mixers and fundraisers you attended in 2014, how many would you come up with?

Dec 31, 2014 Christine Calvin