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Can You Really Disconnect? Tips for a Phone-Free Summer Vacation

Summer. The word conjures images of beaches, baseball and hot, humid nights. For many employees, summer is also the perfect time to take a vacation, especially if you have kids. But often times, those pesky connected devices keep adults from truly taking a break.

Instead of cuddling up with a New York Times best seller and relaxing on a beach chair, most employees are left squinting at their smartphones, scrolling through unread emails. We all know how difficult it can be to really leave the office at the office and disconnect, but turning off those devices while on vacation could be a good thing.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service told Chris Dorobek some tips for preparing for a phone-free summer vacation.

The trend right now, both in D.C. and across the country, is people staying connected while they’re on vacation. Close to a half a billion people own devices, and turning them off can be almost impossible.

So how do you avoid the desire to check in? Fox stressed that planning is key. “The biggest thing is don’t just plan around the vacation itself, but also do some planning around the work before, during and after the vacation so that it’s not a rollercoaster.”

Fox says leaders should encourage their employees to:

  • Take time off to recharge the batteries. A lot of employees feel they can’t take off, when in fact that is just a perception. Bosses need to make it clear vacations are good.
  • Create a master calendar so that not everyone is out the same week.
  • Cross-train your employees to serve as backup, so no one feels they always have to be “on.”

“It is really incumbent upon leader to set the expectation that taking vacation is good and needed,” Fox said. “One way to demonstrate this feeling is to lead by example. You don’t want to be on email the entire time you’re on vacation.”

Leaving the phone on during a vacation can destroy morale and an organization’s culture. Seriously. “If you are constantly ‘on,’ even when you are on vacation, then inevitably you’ll grow resentful,” Fox explained. “The New York Times ran an article about why you hate work. They found you hate work in part, because there is this expectation, this presumption, that you need to be continuously productive. As a result, people find that they’re lacking the down time that they need, even on a daily basis to recharge their batteries. If that’s true, then it’s only worse in terms for people on vacation. If you really do want to keep people engaged and motivated and energized about their work, you’ve got to protect that time for them and for everyone on the team.”

“I think so often times we get trapped in our own sort of cycle of productivity such that we feel like we always need a decision immediately,” added Fox.

What are your tips for taking a disconnected vacation? Can you do it? Let us know in the comments section!

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