Note: This article first appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics magazine.
A lot of people take time off around the holidays. For many, it’s a season of celebration and connecting with loved ones. And because some industries tend to slow down a bit during this period, it can be an easier time of year to take leave from work.
But unplugging from work, even on vacation, can be hard — especially for PR pros who are on-call 24/7. However, if we find ourselves checking emails, taking phone calls and working on projects during vacation, we’re interfering with our well-deserved break and our ability to savor this special time of year with family and friends.
So, what can we do to ensure we enjoy holiday vacation without sacrificing professional goals?
The case for taking vacation
First, let’s review why it’s important to take a vacation: it’s critical for mental and physical health.
A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 745,000 people died in 2016 from heart disease and stroke due to long hours. The research found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease than a workweek of 35 to 40 hours.
In short, time off from work is integral to well-being, sustained productivity, and high performance in work and life. Studies show vacation time:
- Increases mindfulness
- Improves heart health
- Reduces stress
- Boosts brainpower and capacity to learn
- Improves sleep
Step 1: Prepare to be away
In my experience, it’s a lot easier to unplug on vacation when I’m confident everything at work is in order before I leave. This includes doing as much as I can to make sure things continue moving forward while I’m away.
A few tips:
- In the weeks leading up to vacation, prioritize your projects. Focus on completing what needs to be done before you leave and setting aside things that can wait until you return.
- Delegate tasks and projects to team members, as needed, to keep critical items progressing while you’re gone – and trust your team to handle them. Make sure they have the authority, tools and training they need to be successful.
- Set expectations among bosses, team members and clients. Notify them in advance of the dates you’ll be out. Ask them to call or text you with any true emergencies if you plan to stay off email (which I highly recommend – more on that below).
- On your out-of-office email auto-response and voicemail greeting, communicate the dates you are out and offer an alternative contact. That way, you won’t have to worry that you’re leaving someone in a lurch if you don’t get their message until after you return to work.
Step 2: Set boundaries
It can be hard to fully remove ourselves from work, even when on vacation. This is especially true when working virtually has turned many of our homes into our workplaces, and the internet and mobile devices mean we are always a click away from connecting.
But while it’s difficult to disconnect from work when it’s time for a break, it’s certainly not impossible. It just means we have to set boundaries and stick to them.
One trick is to remove distractions and disable habits that draw us into work activities. For example:
- Turn off all work-related notifications on your computer and mobile devices. Even better, remove from your phone any apps that might tempt you to engage in work, like email and social media apps.
- If you work from home, put away unnecessary office supplies. For example, stash your company laptop and work phone in a closet – out of sight, out of mind.
- Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone during periods you really want to be present, such as family meals, holiday parties and quality alone time.
- Have others help hold you accountable. Tell your family and friends you intend to stay off your computer or phone for whatever period of time and invite them to call you out if they see you breaking your rule.
- Make the most of your time off. That means filling your days with activities that are meaningful to you, to fully enjoy the benefits of disengaging from your job and focusing on life beyond work.
PR professionals work hard and put in long hours. That makes vacations even more critical, because they are a time to unplug, unwind and reconnect with loved ones. If you’re planning to take time off this holiday season, cheers to a work-free, satisfying vacation!
Have more tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!