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No Wi-Fi? No Problem! Why and How to Prioritize Your PTO

No Wi-Fi? No Problem! Why and How to Prioritize Your PTOWe hear it time and time again: Taking time off increases physical and mental well-being as well as productivity and focus.
That’s all true:

  • Taking well-deserved time off leads to better performance reviews.
  • Employees who take paid time off (PTO) tend to perform better at work and often return to work with a stronger focus and new perspectives.
    • These perspectives include new experiences and learning opportunities that can positively affect and provide value to your work.
  • Vacation helps your health. Studies have shown missing vacation has been associated with higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and much more.
  • And no surprise—vacation allows for personal growth and contributes to overall family and friendship harmony. THAT is incredibly important, as I’m sure we all know.

However, is taking vacation easier said than done? Sure, requesting PTO may seem like a breeze, but it’s those days leading up to your out-of-office message that can be most stressful. I recently left American soil to cruise the Mediterranean Sea, which meant no Wi-Fi, no cell service (period) for nearly 10 days. Excited? Of course! But stressed? Undeniably. My last two vacations had included taking midnight conference calls to deal with a crisis (thanks to the time difference) and writing an entire communications strategy on the other one. Not really disconnected vacations, if you will, but I had access to Wi-Fi and my laptop and knew I could be available if necessary. Thus, surrendering myself to a vacation on a body of water and being completely unreachable was a bit of a first for me.
Vacation is all about recharging; and in order to do just that, make sure you prep and plan with these to-do’s:

  1. Put your time off on your office’s public calendar.
  2. Give your clients and colleagues an advanced notice of your upcoming PTO. This provides enough warning to help with any issues or urgent matters before your departure.
  3. Be strategic with your schedule. Many complain about the stress of getting all their work done before a vacation, and then the stress of catching up and being overwhelmed when they return. Plan your schedule carefully, i.e., if you can avoid it, don’t plan anything incredibly important the day before you leave or the day you return.
  4. Prioritize your workload. Recognize you’ll never get everything done, so set clear goals for what you need to finish before you leave; what can wait until you return; or what can be delegated to a teammate.
  5. Customize your autoreply email message and voicemail. Make sure it includes how long you will be out and who to contact in your absence.
  6. Most of all, trust your team! Vacation is the perfect time to practice “letting go” and trust that your teammates will jump in and support the account in your absence. Joe DiBenedetto, traditionally a serial-working-during-vacation offender, told me he recently enjoyed a relaxing time off because he trusted his teammates, and he can’t wait to take another vacation.

The United States is the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that does not mandate paid vacation (Read this!). While it’s unlikely our country will be transitioning to a mandated PTO system like some European countries any time soon, we should start viewing totally disconnected, no guilt-feeling vacation time as a non-negotiable. Annual physicals or dental check-ups are a vital part of your health, so start treating PTO as such.

No Wi-Fi? No problem! If you take the appropriate steps to ensure your work is properly transitioned in advance of your departure, then you should be able to fully enjoy your much-earned vacation, worry free.
A few more tips to remember:

  • Take every day of vacation you are given. Many times, PTO days are viewed as “you don’t use it, you lose it.”
  • Avoid taking a “working vacation,” which completely counteracts the benefits of taking time off and clearing your mind.
  • Do not check in constantly. Trust your teammates; constant check-ins are unnecessary.
  • Act as an example—when you respond to e-mails on vacation, you set a precedent. Instead, set an example by completely disconnecting from work. You can also avoid the “people feel guilty taking vacation” situation.
  • Don’t miss out. By doing work on vacation, you will miss out on adventures (little reminder: you PAID for this vacation!)
  • Public Wi-Fi is not worth it—It’s often slow, unreliable and not secure.
  • If you leave your computer at home, you will have a lighter suitcase, and you won’t need to worry about your computer being stolen.
  • Oh, and mark your calendars: National Plan for Vacation Day is celebrated on the last Tuesday of January!