Unplug for the betterment of your work life.

Vacations bring needed perspective and margin; they are an essential part of a successful career strategy. Taking a vacation can breathe fresh life into your work days and are an integral element of career longevity. Though many individuals neglect or downright avoid taking time off, they are cheating themselves out of things they need to thrive in their career.

You Are Overworked

If you are skeptical, you are not alone. Americans do not take their vacation days. One study found that Americans leave half of their vacation days unused. Another study noted that over half of the workforce feels overworked and nearly a third report that they don’t have time to reflect on their jobs or performance. Several forward-thinking companies have even offered their employees unlimited time off. In some instances the policy, meant to encourage and incentivize rest, has had the opposite effect, with employees taking less days off.

You Are Always Working

In addition to working without any break, individuals are increasingly connected to work. The majority of employees have work email on their smartphones, checking and replying to messages on evenings and weekends. This reflects the pressure most people feel to be on-duty at all times. Workplace culture can feed this sense of obligation: if everyone on your team is replying to a thread on Saturday afternoon, you do not want to be the weak link that stalls progress. If you can’t even take a day without working, how could you take a whole week?

A Perfect Recipe for Burnout

Many people feel that working without break is a sign of dedication; however, overwork will hurt, not help, your job performance. Any athlete knows that rest and recovery is key to achievement and growth. Work is no different. You’re reluctant to take a much-needed vacation, but often find that it is during these breaks that you discover your biggest and best ideas. In order to successfully solve a problem that’s been confounding you, sometimes you need to walk away for a while. If you haven’t made your summer plans yet, take some advice and be sure to get away, even if it’s just for a long weekend. Consider three reasons you’ll be glad you did:

  1. Perspective. When you’re mired in the day-to-day, you lose sight of the big picture. When you get away, you get the chance to remember what you care about and why you do what you do. You will return recentered and ready to dig into your initiatives.
  2. Ideas. It’s hard to have new insight when you’re stuck in the same old grind. Changing your location can spark fresh ideas and inspiration. Interacting with different people will broaden your perspective and challenge your assumptions.
  3. Energy. Routine breeds monotony and familiarity fuels fatigue. When you get away to rest, you will come back refreshed and reinvigorated to dive into your work.

Your Work Will Be There When You Return

If you still need more encouragement, listen carefully: your department will not self-destruct while you’re away. One of the undying traits of work is that it is perennially available. Like Sisyphus, you will always have work you need to do. Have the humility to admit that you are not the lynch-pin holding the company together—and if you are, there are systemic problems you need to address.

An Opportunity for Collaboration

In covering essential job tasks while you’re away, you have the chance to work with your colleagues in a new and different way. Through parceling out portions of your tasks, you can have a greater appreciation for how the component parts in your department work together and how they might function more optimally upon your return from vacation. You will also foster connections with your coworkers.

Don’t Work on Vacation

You will be tempted to work while away. What can the harm be in just checking in or replying to a few emails? Resist the urge. Designate an emergency contact in your away messages while you are gone and instruct them to contact you only in the instance of a true—and we mean dire—emergency. If you really can’t handle an entire week away from work, set one designated check-in time: on Wednesday at 10:00am your coworkers know that you will call in to check on anything urgent. Hold yourself to it even when it’s hard. A working vacation isn’t a vacation.

Successful People Go on Vacation

Secure, balanced people recognize the importance of getting away. It’s vital that you get away not only for yourself, but also for those around you. By being constantly on-call for work, you are regularly short-changing your personal relationships in small—and sometimes big—ways. Do you remember when you were late to dinner with your daughter because a conference call went late? You can bet she does. By taking time away from work with the people you care about, you are signalling that you value them and showing appreciation for the ways they bear with you in your career pursuits.

On a very base level, vacations make you more interesting. You have seen and experienced things that you can relate to associates. What better conversation starter for your next networking event than the wildlife you saw on safari?

Build on the Momentum

Once you’ve seen how helpful unplugging for a week can be, integrate smaller breaks into your life. Spend an entire Saturday afternoon without checking email. Leave your phone in the car when you go to dinner with your significant other. You are not shirking your responsibilities when you take time off, you are practicing focus and balance.

Don’t Make Your Vacation More Work

One final word of caution: don’t make your vacation a sprint through activities that leaves you more exhausted than when you left. Your vacation should be crafted to complement, not mirror, your daily routines. If you have a high-intensity, fast-paced job that requires long hours in front of a screen, a slowed down pace with plenty of time in nature might be the perfect antidote.  

Author Bio
Cheryl Hyatt is the co-founder of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search, a firm that specializes in higher educational institutions nationwide. She has been successfully recruiting senior-level executives for educational institutions and nonprofit organizations for over 20 years. Hyatt assist clients in all aspects of fundraising and executive search. As a seasoned consultant, she provides an abundance of fundraising and administrative experience to higher education institutions, K-12 and independent schools, civic and religious organizations, and cultural and social welfare institutions. Her breadth of experience, knowledge, and contacts, coupled with the ability to work skillfully and sensitively with people, make her a much sought after professional in her field.