As the days grow longer and warmer, the professional world is starting to put their summer vacation plans in motion. But today’s tough economy still makes people wary of taking all of their well-deserved time off. Many employees are nervous to step away from work completely, fearing they’ll miss something important. Small business owners are especially afraid if they’re not physically present, the place could implode.
Studies have shown however that resting your body and mind can help stave off job burnout and lead to a renewed productive workforce. The importance of “balanced work-rest ratios” for executives to perform at their best is stressed in this Harvard Business Review article by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz of LGE Performance Systems. It's similar to an athlete’s imperative recovery time. “Chronic stress without recovery depletes energy reserves, leads to burnout and breakdown, and ultimately undermines performance,” Loehr and Schwartz write in their joint article. “Rituals that promote oscillation—rhythmic stress and recovery—are the second component of high performance.”
But not all employees take advantage of their paid vacation time. According to a Harris Interactive survey in 2011, 57% of working Americans had unused vacation time at the end of the year. In the age of information overload and the “always on” mentality that mobile has created, taking that well-needed R&R couldn’t be more relevant in today’s business world.
The key to vacation success for both the employee and the business comes down to proper planning and sharing your responsibilities with a knowledgeable and dependable team. Below are four strategies to help you unplug and unwind, and still remain effective on vacation:
1) Train Your Team Well
We all feel incredibly important in our jobs and can’t imagine stepping away from our projects. The fact is though, we’re always busy and there’s never really a good time to take vacation. But it’s necessary for both your physical and mental health. Being able to let go and lean on others is half the battle.
To ensure your time away goes smoothly, start prepping people weeks in advance; hold team calls, go over status items and assign individuals to oversee ongoing projects such as managing the company’s blog. Make sure you provide contact information to your team should anything urgent occur. But first identify which types of emergencies indeed warrant your attention, and designate a point person to stand in your place for the less critical hiccups.
2 ) Use Technology to Stay Social
If you work at a small business with limited resources, or on a smaller team in a larger business, there are different technology tools that can make it look like “business as usual,” even while you’re out. Social media tools like Hootsuite, MediaFunnel, MarketMeSuite, and SproutSocial allow you to manage multiple social channels from one dashboard and schedule automatic posts to your Facebook and Twitter accounts while away from your desktop. With Wordpress you can write your blog articles in advance and schedule them to post throughout the week.
While there is no single tool that can manage all of your social communications outreach, having some of these robust tools in place can keep the marketing engine running. Even with this support, you will still need to appoint someone to oversee this function or make necessary changes in case something goes wrong. Late-breaking news events, particularly those of a somber character, can require a change in tone to your pre-scheduled social media updates. (The last thing you want is to publish a pre-scheduled tweet about a frivolous topic during a national crisis like the Boston Marathon tragedy.)
3) Adjust Your Attitude
Once you’ve covered the above, the final strategy for success is to commit to spending less time connected to technology and more time connecting with people, places and events. This is what will help you to truly unwind and give you a renewed sense of creativity and productivity. For many this requires a new attitude, to “let go and let live.”
Although tempting, checking just a few e-mails can sabotage your vacation. A few e-mails can easily turn into two hours of time on your iPhone or laptop, a whole beach afternoon wasted and unhappy travel companions who have been waiting for your undivided attention. Your “out of office” auto-reply should clearly set the expectation that you’re not available during a certain timeframe and provide follow-up contacts in your absence. Remember, those 1,000+ e-mails will still be there when you get back and the majority is spam anyway. It’s wiser to ease back into your overloaded Inbox upon your return with a rejuvenated mindset. Right now is about 100% recovery!
4) Plan Ahead, Go Mobile
Although your goal should be to unplug from all of your technology during vacation, most people have a tough time going cold turkey and would feel better knowing they can get online if necessary. Although not recommended, if you truly need to get online at some point during your vacation, consider investing in a wireless adapter to allow you access no matter where you are – the cottage, beach, overseas, even on a cruise! For more direct access to your business assets, speak to your IT department or invest in tools on your own that allow a secure connection to your desktop screen, just as you would see it when in the office.
So before you get too comfortable in the confines of your four walls this summer, consider putting an effective vacation strategy in place that allows you to refresh your business outlook and your overall well being.