Take a Vacation That's Really a Vacation

via Bill Peel
June 13th, 2015

In a survey of 1300 Americans, 90 percent said vacations help them relax and recharge, reduce their stress, and build closer relationships with family. Forty percent, however, don’t take all of their paid vacation days even though this affects their health, well-being and relationships. 

But even if you take all your vacation days, a survey reported in Forbes entitled “Americans Struggle to Escape the Office on Vacation” revealed that 77 percent of us had worked on vacation over the past year. Unfortunately, I could relate. Guilty!

My sense of uneasiness grew when I picked up an issue of Time and read about Americans’ summer vacation plans:

  • Sixty-one percent plan to work during their time off
  • Thirty-eight percent will check and return email
  • Twenty-four percent will text
  • Thirty percent will take and return calls

Both articles cited the main reason people say they work on vacation: urgent situations could require their attention. I was nailed—and not feeling so healthy after all.

Although I think a lot about faith at work, I realized I needed to do some serious thinking and praying about faith when off from work. Some issues and principles surfaced.

Underlying Reasons We're Tempted to Work on Vacation

1. Pride. If we think that things can’t go on without us, we’re thinking too highly of ourselves. While God wants to work through us, He certainly can work without us. He may want to use other gifted individuals while we are away.

2. Disbelief. Do we really believe that God wants us to rest and spend time with our family, and that He cares about our work when we’re there as well as when we are away?

3. Fear. While we're away, other people are working, waiting on answers from us. Will we be missed? Will they figure out that they can do things without us? And, if we don’t chip away while on vacation, the piles of unreturned emails, phone calls, and “neglected” responsibilities will create a week of frantic overwork when we return, reversing any benefits derived from being away.

If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Following are suggestions for a vacation that's really a vacation. 

1. Create an exit strategy.

  • Issues and deadlines: Think through who and what will likely need attention while you’re away, and schedule time before you leave to address these things.
  • Key people. Consider who needs to know that you will be out of pocket, and tell them you will not be responding to communications except in an emergency. 
  • Out-of-the-Office Automatic Replies. Outlook allows the creation of separate messages for those inside and outside your organization. Create messages that communicate when and from whom people can expect a response and someone they can contact if they can’t wait for your return. If you say you won’t reply, don’t.
  • Proxy communication. You may want to ask someone to watch and respond to emails in your stead. Plan time to brief the person on what you want him or her to communicate. 

2. Create a reentry plan.

  • Create a schedule for the week you return, including when you plan to return emails and phone calls.
  • If possible, plan a catch-up day and don't let people know you have returned. Set your Out-of-the-Office Automatic Reply to announce your return the day after you actually return so you won't be expected back on the job yet.
  • Identify the tasks that will need immediate attention upon return.

3. Exert discipline.

  • Remind yourself each morning when you’re tempted to check email that God is in control and that your work is in capable hands.
  • If you do need to take some work, discuss this with others on the trip, then schedule some time and set a time limit for the work.
  • Thank God for your work, His commitment to your best interests, and His sustaining power while you're away.

Other articles that will help you get the most out of your time away from work:

Find suggestion gleaned from HBR on how to Maximize Your Vacation ROI

Find suggestions for what to do with your burgeoning InBox  at No Email While on Vacation? What?

Find suggestions from LeTourneau psychologist Malinda Fasol in her article Avoid Vacation Meltdown

Find suggestions for reentry at Life after Vacation? Strategies for a Successful Reentry