Taking Vacation: How to Take Your Time Off Unapologetically
A few years ago you could not have convinced me that it was possible for me to go on a vacation and not do work simultaneously. If a work email came through while I was out of the office, that nervous, anxiety-infused feeling would creep in from my gut and make me feel hopeless and as if I was obligated to respond.
I would be so disappointed in myself for responding to an email thread that could have been avoided had I focused on being on vacation and setting better expectations and life boundaries.
Well, almost a decade into working in the advertising industry, and the anxiety jitters come back from time to time but not nearly as bad as they used to. So how did I go from nervous Nancy to Vacation Vicky?
First, I realized that the job would and could be done without me. Yes, I got off of my high horse (that I didn’t know I was on) of thinking I wasn’t disposable and realized that someone could come in with little to no knowledge about my projects and somehow still move them across the finished line.
The next thing I did was life changing and pretty radical for a person who manages client and agency relationships. I turned off my work email notifications. No longer was I beachside basking in the sun and getting disturbed by a work email about a status document. The key to maintaining my chill was to disconnect totally until I was back in work mode. This could be seen as extreme for some but for those who suffer/have suffered from toxic work environments, it is critical to take extreme measures to save yourself from yourself.
Another thing that is often overlooked is the power of a great out of office coverage plan. By setting clear expectations on all projects and giving foresight into what could be on the horizon, you leave feeling like you didn’t leave anyone hanging, thus freeing your conscious. This also allows you to reduce your chances of being contacted while on vacation. I hear a lot of stories of people returning from vacation and getting called into their boss’s office because they didn’t leave a thorough coverage plan that cost the team a great deal of inconvenience. Vacation brain can sometimes give people false courage but don’t let that be you. Remember, if you plan on going back to work, you may want to act like you give a damn before departing for vacation.
Sometimes people forget that they EARNED their vacation days. Most people have guilt about taking their time because of passive aggressive remarks from colleagues. Here is my advice- F%$K them. Haters gonna hate, haters gonna talk. At the end of the day, if someone is giving you a hard time about taking time off, you should reconsider working at that place. Toxic work environments aren’t good for anyone and making someone feel bad about a right that they have contractually is grounds for running for the hills.
It is important to note that as one gets more senior in their career, it is inevitable that there will be a random urgent email that can come through that you could be obligated to respond to. I was just talking to a friend who mentioned that he was now a global c-suite exec and had tons of downtime for the most part during the day. He admitted that if he was to receive an urgent call as we ate brunch, he would be obligated to act on it asap since he was being paid at a threshold that exercised the right to interrupt his life in that way. A few years ago I would have bawked, but today, I get it and know that at the end of the day, it is all about balance and perspective. *and money. Please make sure the check or outcome is worth it.*
As I have gotten more seasoned and senior in my career, I now have mastered the balance of checking a work email and returning back to a brunch conversation. Being even-keeled like this takes time, intentionality and work. PERIOD! But at the end of the day, the goal is to not feel obligated to work 24-7 while you are on vacation. To whom much is given, much is required so remember that it is just as much about balance as it is about perspective. Taking 15 minutes a day to check emails while on vacation isn’t the end of the world, but don’t make it your entire world either.