I can’t come to my email right now…

I can’t come to My Email Right Now…

I did something this month and the world did not stop turning. The sky did not fall. My office did not implode.

I went on vacation to Iceland…without my laptop.

I’m a little ashamed to admit this was the first time I traveled sans computer since starting my business nearly 10 years ago, but it made all the difference in being able to have a REAL vacation.

American culture isn’t really very vacation-oriented. We are one of six countries who does not mandate time off for employees (we are in company with Tonga, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Kiribati). According to Project Time Off, not only is it not mandated, but those who do take vacation often fear that they will seem less dedicated or replaceable.

The good news? More and more companies are realizing the value of employees taking time off, and some – like employee communications software company Social Chorus – actually offer a bonus to employees who take at least a full week off at a time.

To have a successful vacation where you truly leave work behind, there are a few things you and your team can do to make sure you are really taking a break.

Set your team up for success: Whether you are mid-project or have ongoing activities that need to be managed in your absence, provide access to the tools and processes that need to be handled. Things may not be handled exactly the same way you would do it, but give your team what they need to make good decisions to keep things moving. Encourage them to not contact you unless truly necessary. (But they can definitely cc you on things that are happening so you are in the loop upon your return.) In my absence, my associate Kelli ensured our clients and candidates had everything they needed.

Have a clear out of office message: This sounds obvious, but I see too many out of office messages that indicate people will be checking in even if on vacation. That encourages people to make requests that maybe could actually wait for your return – and then you feel compelled to work on those “not urgent/not important” issues. Not feeling creative? Try some of these.

Trust: If you trust your team and they trust themselves, you are likely to get far fewer questions that you have to attend to while trying to get away from work. Trust isn’t built the week before you go on vacation – this is something you have to build daily.

Let go of your urge to jump in: This was a tough one for me. I’m so used to being accessible and weighing in on everything, it took a lot for me to not jump into things I was seeing on my email via my phone. But I made a commitment to myself to only jump in if I was truly the only one who could solve an issue. Guess what? That is a rare situation. My colleague appreciated my restraint.

It turned out leaving my laptop behind was an important exercise for me. I was able to enjoy the clean air and gorgeous waterfalls of Iceland without feeling like I had to “log in” to work each day. I came back relaxed and refreshed, and everything was running smoothly while I was gone.

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