How To Disconnect From Work When You’re on Vacation

Did you know that in France, there are laws that prevent after-hours emailing? These days, it’s increasingly difficult to protect work-life balance without such strict boundaries, let alone disconnect from work during an entire vacation. “With modern-day technology, disconnecting from work can be extremely challenging. Many people even struggle to not check their work emails when they are on vacation,” says Erica Cramer, LCSW, MBA, a psychotherapist at Cobb Psychotherapy.

The benefits of disconnecting from work

But if you’re planning to take time off, it’s in your best interest – and the best interest of your team and organization – to do what you can to truly unplug.

First, you’ve earned it. “When you have a vacation, you work extremely hard for it and deserve it. Vacation time is sacred and each moment of it should be enjoyed without distraction,” says Cramer. Second, it’s simply necessary, just like sleep and nutrition. “People should spend the time recharging their battery and disconnecting from the stressors of their everyday life. Truly disconnecting from work while you are on vacation can give you the mental, physical and emotional vacation that you need,” she adds.

According to Alexis Haselberger, productivity, time-management and leadership coach, unplugging not only benefits your mental health, but it also boosts your productivity. “Studies show that when we take the time to truly disconnect, we return with increased productivity and creativity,” she says. “One of the best ways to ward off burnout is to regularly rest and disconnect from work.”

Tips to avoid thinking about work during your time off

Here are five steps that will help you disconnect from work while you’re away so you can come back feeling recharged.

1. Prepare and set expectations

“Try to get everything as organized as possible in your work-life prior to going on vacation,” recommends Cramer. “Complete all pending projects or leave them in the hands of someone you trust while you are away. Create a protocol for any outstanding issues that may arise in your absence.”

It’s also important to set expectations. Haselberger says you should reach out to your colleagues a few days before your vacation to remind them that you’ll be out of the office and unavailable and let them know that if they need anything from you, they should ask you before certain cutoff date. And resist the urge to tell them they can reach out while you’re away if anything comes up.

2. Remove temptations

Sure, you can tell yourself that you’re not going to check your work email or Slack messages on vacation. But let’s face it: How often does that happen in practice? Take measures that will make it harder for you to do so.

“Remove work email and Slack from your phone for the duration of your vacation. It’s much easier to remove temptation than to resist it,” says Haselberger. At the end of the day, even if you’re just checking messages and not responding, checking in “keeps you in the loop and you won’t fully disconnect.”

3. Set OOO messages

She also suggests setting an out-of-office reply on email, updating your voicemail message and setting your status to “away” on any messaging platforms you and your team use. It might seem obvious, but it’s so easy to forget to do it until you’re boarding a flight, and that will start your vacation on the wrong foot. Make sure to cover your bases instead of just writing a quirky auto-response too. “Let folks know you’re unavailable, when you’ll be back and who to contact in your absence,” adds Haselberger.

4. Avoid discussing work

Whatever you do, you’ll want to set boundaries with the topics you discuss while away. “Do not discuss work-related issues during a vacation with your loved ones,” says Cramer. Even if you’re super passionate about what you do, this will do you good.

5. Go off-grid

Finally, if you don’t trust yourself to truly unplug but know that you need it badly, you might want to plan your vacation around that. “If you know that disconnecting will be hard for you, plan a vacation where you’ll be unable to access email such as camping in a place without cell service,” says Haselberger.

Think about it this way: If you find the thought of not having access to the internet scary, you might be needing it the most.