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Connectivity is a central feature of modern business. Video calls, direct messaging, emails, and group chats mean we’re never far from our coworkers and clients, even if we’re living and working remotely. These modern modes of communication mean we’re always available, ready to respond when we’re called on, no matter where we are.

The expectation to respond at the drop of an instant message makes it much harder for many of us to completely disconnect and relax. The ping-ping-pings of a group chat disrupt a quiet hike in the woods, and a looming notification bubble can cast a shadow over even the sunniest day at the beach.

Even during their time off, many workers feel guilty ignoring messages from the office. Eleven percent of respondents to a LinkedIn poll revealed they planned to be fully reachable even while technically “out of office,” and more than a quarter planned to check in at least once a day.

The danger of this constant connectivity is that employees are on the edge of burning out. According to a study by Indeed, 53% of remote employees put in more hours than they did in the office, and 61% now find it more challenging to unplug when the work day is done completely.

From Burnout to Basking in the Sun

It’s easy to feel pressured to stay in the loop. It’s equally as hard to feel the benefits of getting away from the everyday stressors of work, but there are many.

Going on vacation or even just spending time relaxing at home can help reset feelings of burnout, depression, and anxiety. Employees who take time away from the office return with increased productivity and creativity.

But when the point of time off is to recharge, interruptions from work can lead to even more feelings of burnout and stress. That’s why it’s essential to set yourself up for success even before you head off for some R and R – and then make sure your job doesn’t come along as an uninvited guest.

So, with vacation season upon us, how can we focus on unplugging and building meaningful connections with our family, friends, and ourselves?

5 Tips for Disconnecting from Work

  1. Plan ahead: A day or two before you’re set to leave, send a quick email to your coworkers to remind them you’ll be out of the office. Include the dates you’ll be away, and be clear you won’t be available for regular contact. Instead, direct them to a colleague or two who can handle urgent questions until you get back. While you’re gone, set up an out-of-office autoreply for your email with the same information. If you use messaging apps regularly, set your status to “Away” and add a line to your bio saying you’ll be back from vacation soon.
  2. Wrap up loose ends: Nothing’s worse than the nagging feeling of an unfinished project. If you’ve got something in the works, try to get it to a good stopping point before you go. If that’s not possible, designate a point person to follow up on steps requiring attention. Even if you don’t have a clean docket before you leave, it can be helpful to list the next steps so you can pick up where you left off when you return. But make sure to leave that list at your desk – no peeking while you’re at the beach!
  3. Disable those apps: Collaboration apps can be convenient for day-to-day work, keeping your coworkers and projects at your fingertips regardless of location. But if you conduct your job from your personal phone, it can be hard to ignore those little notification bubbles on vacation.Before you go, learn how to disable notifications for your work apps. Or better yet, temporarily uninstall them altogether. If you can’t bring yourself to completely disconnect, set time limits for those apps and group them into a single folder, you check once a day. (Bonus points if you label the folder “DO NOT USE!”)  
  4. Set some vacation boundaries: Whether you’re on a solo hike in the woods or swimming in the ocean with family, don’t forget this is your time to take a break! Ask them to help hold you accountable if you're traveling with companions. Let them know you want to limit the work talk and have them nudge you if you start to check your email. For those traveling alone, try leaving your phone behind while you’re out exploring for the day, or put your computer where you can’t see it. But most of all, give yourself some grace if you slip up and respond to a message. Disconnecting is hard today, so don’t let a single notification ruin your vacation. Just take a deep breath and return to your relaxing activities.
  5. Plan a “reentry day”: Take some of the pressure off when you return to work with a few moments to ease yourself into the routine. Set aside time to catch up on what you missed without taking on anything new. Use this period to review unread emails and new reports or touch base with your out-of-office point person. You can even keep yourself tagged as unavailable to avoid being bothered as you come out of vacation mode.Knowing you have this time dedicated to returning to work can help relieve some of the pressure to maintain “inbox zero” while you’re away.

When our work is more connected than ever, it’s even more important to remember to unplug and recharge. As much as we love how easy it is to collaborate with coworkers via apps on all our devices, we need to embrace our time away so we can come back refreshed.

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