How Protecting Time Off Improves Performance

September 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

These working vacations we’re so fond of, these take-your-laptop-to-check-email vacations we take with the family, may be harming our overall performance on the job.

A recent article by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) discusses the need for workers to take quality time off from their jobs.

These days, many folks cart laptops or at least smartphones with them and stay in touch during the entirety of their time “away” from the office. While this can be necessary at times, it can also lead to burn out and feelings that their vacation wasn’t truly a vacation.

English: Rental cabins near the Great Smoky Mo...

Why would you want to work when this is your view?! Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Sevier County, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time off is something that supports employee buoyancy; the ability to bounce back easily from stressors. Buoyancy is something every employer should encourage because an office filled with stressed out, grumpy employees with no tolerance for stress creates even more stress for everyone.

“True time off” can be taken if the employee plans ahead of time. Amy Fox, the article’s author, says that her company lays out a timeline for employees before time off that includes planning for who will cover, and talking with clients about what will happen during the vacation. She says that she encourages employees never to use the phrase, “if you need to reach me.”

At TravelPro, we like to encourage everyone to take real time off and not do any work at all. While I don’t do any work while I’m away, I do like to go through my email once a day to make sure I don’t have a jammed inbox when I get back.

It’s even possible to extend vacations because of the capability to take care of simpler tasks on the go and leave very important tasks until you’re back in the office. Since many of us can work anywhere, why not spend a few weeks out of the office working from an Airbnb or vacation rental?

How do you spend your vacations? Do you shut everything off completely, or do you cheat and work while you’re gone?

Leave your favorite practices in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Avoid Work Stacking Up When You Go On Vacation

July 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Many people avoid taking vacations for one simple reason: they’re nervous that while they’re away, things will fall to pieces back at the office. (You know, because the whole business will shut down if we’re not there. Never mind the 12 years it was in existence before we ever showed up.)

The fact is, we all need some time away, especially in today’s ever-connected world. Vacations are not just important for your mental, physical and emotional health, they’re also important for your work performance. Just a few days away from work, emails and phone calls can help you become more passionate about your work again.

W Hotel, working on a laptop, San Francisco, C...

W Hotel, working on a laptop, San Francisco, California, USA (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

So, when you take time off from the office, truly take time off. No work, no answering emails in the mornings, no fiddling with your phone over lunch. Your boss doesn’t let you take a nap in the middle of the day, so why are you working when you’re on vacation?

Next time you’re planning a long vacation, use these tips to avoid work stacking up while you’re away.

1. Plan early

While your HR department or manager may only request two weeks’ notice, you’ll ideally want to notify your manager or colleagues a few months ahead of time. This will give everyone time to adjust to your absence and plan appropriate coverage for your work.

2. Get coverage

Depending on your job, there are likely certain things that simply can’t be ignored while you’re away. Since you’ve already informed your colleagues of your absence ahead of time, you’ll want to make a list of things you’ll need help with while you’re away. Many times, people are happy to pitch in, knowing that you’ll do the same when they need a break. Just don’t forget to bring them a souvenir.

3. Work ahead

Allison Carter of Roundpeg in Indianapolis (and the inspiration for this post) took a two week trip to Egypt, and spent two months working ahead to prepare:

I knew what my baseline work was, what was owed to retainer clients, and what I could plan for. So every week, I wrote an extra blog post or two to hold in reserve, saved a few more tweets to be scheduled. That way, I wasn’t scrambling in the week before I left to finish two weeks worth of work.

Although that may seem extreme, working ahead for a few weeks (or a few months.) will keep you from stressing yourself out pre-vacation.

4. Give clients plenty of notice

In Allison’s case, she began notifying her clients of her absence a month in advance, then sent them a final reminder one week before with contact information for a fellow colleague. “This way,” she said, “there were no nasty surprises when a client realized I was gone, and the transition was smooth for them.”

5. Stay on top of your inbox

If your email inbox tends to fill up fast, you may want to log in and do a bit of cleaning while you’re away. Don’t respond to messages or start reading too thoroughly – just log in and quickly delete any junk you don’t need. If you spot anything important, flag it so you know what to tackle first upon your return.

The last step? Enjoy your vacation, and remember to truly unplug. This may feel unnatural and difficult, but remind yourself that this is your opportunity to unwind and invest in your personal health.

The Vacation Nation: Unlimited Paid Time Off

February 21, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

One of our favorite business blogs is Spin Sucks, written by the PR company Arment Dietrich and its founder and CEO, Gini Dietrich. They frequently feature guest bloggers who are experts in their line of work, and we especially loved a post about paid time off (PTO) by Lindsay Bell, a relatively recent hire at Arment Dietrich.

Not that Lindsay is an expert in paid time off, but she’s an expert in being a working stiff (in a former life, of course) and living among the ranks of “no vacation nation,” otherwise known as professionals in the United States.

Of course, American workers have paid time off, but what little they do have is often eaten away at by life’s little nuisances: sick kids home from school, a busted sump pump. Suddenly, those vacation days in your PTO bank are gone, and you’re as pale, pasty and stressed out as you were before it ran dry.

Her post is about unlimited paid time off (UPTO), and we’re rather intrigued by the idea. We’ve written about one company’s revolutionary vacation policy , but there are less-extreme versions, too.

These company policies recognize that most American workers never actually stop working; it lets them strive for a greater work/life balance; and it implies a real sense of trust on behalf of management in the company’s employees. Companies monitor the amount of time taken and still require notice for longer periods away from the office, but in offices with UPTO, employees no longer need to ask for a half-day just to go to the doctor or run an errand in a neighboring town. They just do it.

Our take: Whether you have five days or an unlimited amount, use your vacation time, for heaven’s sake! And if your days are numbered, so to speak, don’t just use those days off to run errands, pay bills or paint your house. See the world. Make it count.

We love the idea of unlimited time off, though it may not be practical for every industry. It’s going to be hard to implement and monitor universally — we urge caution and careful thought for companies considering it — but we’ll agree with Lindsay that times have changed, and it’s time to start reevaluating policies like PTO at companies whenever possible.