The title of this article might have confused you: isn’t the whole point of a vacation not to work? Why would you have to make a plan not to work? Well according to one study, the average full-time employed American spends more than 30 minutes a day of their vacation working, while 10% admit to working over an hour per day on vacation and 42% admit to contacting a colleague while on their holiday.

We can call it a vacation, but it seems that some of us are not really decompressing even when we actually take our paid time off. That’s why we’ve put together 5 tips on how to ensure your summer vacation is as enjoyable and work-free as possible.

1. First, make a real commitment to actually taking a vacation.

Going through the logistical motions of buying airplane tickets, hotel reservations, and drawing up a basic itinerary doesn’t count. Just because you’ve made plans to not be physically present in the office doesn’t mean you are not mentally and psychologically still wrapped up in your work.

The whole point of paid time off is to rejuvenate and recover. If you’re working on your holiday because you haven’t made the emotional commitment to actually taking a vacation, you aren’t really doing yourself -- or your employer -- any favors in the long run. You simply can’t be your professional best if you don’t take time off. So get into the mindset and buy into the fact that your holiday is supposed to be nourishing time that brings you back to the workplace as a better, refreshed person.

2. Create an “Out of the Office” auto-reply for your email and the equivalent message on your work voicemail.

For those of us who have client-facing roles or simply have responsibilities or a work environment where this sort of thing is frowned upon, send reminders to those who you suspect will interrupt you the most during your vacation, just before you leave.

In some cases, your boss will be the one that needs a reminder, or it may be your major clients or regular contacts. In other cases, it’s simply telling the team-members who will be covering for you to be proactive in cc:ing you (or not, if you prefer) but not expecting you to respond. Doing this may not reduce the numbers of emails or voicemails you return to (Can you think of a more anxiety-filled moment than seeing “1,346 unread messages being downloaded?”), but it will set expectations and explain why you are not responding for a while.

3. To actually reduce the amount of communication you get while you’re away, tell your colleagues and managers early on about your absence, and don’t just block the time on your calendar.

Be sure to send calendar notifications to those whom you think really need to have this planned into their own work schedule either because they will have to cover for you, or because they simply need to be aware. Everyone is busy and it’s hard for people to be aware of anyone else’s schedule. Many of your colleagues want to respect your time off but simply don’t remember or don’t realize that you will be gone, so help them do it.

4. Ditch the guilt.

You can’t relax if you’re worrying about what you’re doing. However, it’s easier said than done for some of us to not feel guilty about taking time off. Do what you need to do in order to minimize feelings of guilt. For some of us that may mean rescheduling a vacation to a better time (e.g. not in the middle of a new product launch) or trying to cram in your tasks before you leave. For others, that may simply mean taking a colleague out to lunch to thank them for covering for you ahead of time, or sending them flowers when you come back.

5. Minimize your “other” work on vacation.

Your job responsibiities are not the only kind of work that you should try to minimize on vacation. For too many women, care-taking responsibilties surge to the fore-front on vacation. Just ask any new-ish mother and she will tell you that childcare and family responsibilities on vacation can be so exhausting that it’s more restful to actually return to work.

While sometimes there may be little we can do about this, making a plan to enlist babysitters on vacation, family members or partners for their support in your taking time off is something many corporate, Type-A types neglect to do.

If you’re like most full-time employed Americans, you work hard. According to a Gallup poll, adults employed full-time work reported working an average of 47 hours per week. That’s almost 10 hours a day for the “average” person, which means that you there are plenty others who work even more. You deserve a vacation and they don’t just “happen” without some active thought and planning.

It’s still the beginning of June so if you haven’t had the chance to sit down and really plan your summer holiday yet, make sure your vacation plans incorporate these ideas.

Do you have any strategies for ensuring a work-free vacation? If so, share your advice and opinions with other women in our community.


Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.