· Eve Church  · 5 min read

Why You Need to Encourage Your People to Switch Off on Vacation

No matter how dedicated you are to your job, the fact is, you’re a human being and you need to rest at some point. That’s just basic biology!

For many of us, switching off when we’re on vacation can be easier said than done. It’s crazy when you think about it: We’ve been planning and packing and looking forward to our precious time off. And the likelihood is that we’ve also spent a decent amount of money on our break.

So why do we find ourselves getting sucked back into the daily grind at the office, even as we’re sipping a pina colada on the beach?!

The thing is, in our fast paced and competitive culture there can be a tendency to make working round the clock, the side hustle, the ultra-connectivity, your sheer indispensable-ness, a bit of a ‘thing’. A personality trait almost.

But no matter how focused and dedicated you are to your job, the simple fact is, you’re a human being and you need to rest at some point. That’s just basic biology!

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a CEO or a junior admin assistant, burnout is not going to do you any favors in the workplace and you need to recharge your batteries at some point.

But if your company is built on a culture of expecting employees to respond to emails at whatever hour, wherever they are, firstly, that needs to change, and secondly, how do you as someone working in HR encourage your people to take the time they need to regroup and come back to work refreshed and rested?

Why you need to encourage your people to switch off on vacation

Summer is fast approaching, and with it will come the slew of vacation requests from your company’s employees.

That means there’s no better time than the present to start impressing on people the importance of them disconnecting while they’re away.

Of course, certain leaders or managers within your organization may have other ideas which is where you, you lucky person in Human Resources, need to take the bull by the horns and tell them why encouraging your employees to truly take a break is more beneficial than having them answering calls and emails from their sun lounger.

Gently (or not so gently!) remind them that doing all you can to support your employee’s mental health and wellbeing should be an ingrained part of your company culture and part of a modern workplace. You know, as opposed to running them into the ground.

Read more: How You (& Your Employees) Can Avoid Burnout

Employee burnout is real - and it is costly. What happens when someone is so overworked that they either start calling in sick constantly, taking unauthorized days off here and there, or even just quitting completely?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it will cause your business multiple problems.

From other employees having to pick up the absent person’s slack (and then becoming resentful and overworked themselves) to plummeting retention rates and the subsequent time and cost associated with having to source, hire and train a replacement member of the team.

The knock-on effect is real.

Read more: How to Help Your Employees Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance

So that brings us to encouraging your people to switch off while they’re on vacation. It might be easier said than done, but you owe it to your business, and your employees of course, to at least give it your best shot!

Some pointers to help you evolve the conversation could be:

  • They might not mind taking the odd call or answering a few emails. But how do their family, friends, significant other, or whoever else they might be on vacation with feel about it? They’re probably not that psyched!
  • Disconnecting from work will allow them to be a better parent, partner, friend - and this will not only benefit the child, spouse, girl/boyfriend or buddy but them too.
  • They’ve taken precious vacation days and likely paid a large sum of money for their trip: Doesn’t that at least mean they should be fully present and in the moment?
  • Going back to our wild concept of being human - they need to switch off and recharge so that they can return and bring their best self back to work.

How to encourage your people to disconnect on vacation

Whether you demand a company-wide ban on answering work emails and calls while away, or you’d rather take an ‘at your discretion’ approach, it’s still worth giving your people a few tips and options for going, even partially, temporarily, kind of off grid on vacation.

For example, you could suggest anything from:

  • Leaving their phone at home entirely.
  • Taking their phone but entrusting it to their partner to look after.
  • Taking their phone but leaving it in the hotel safe and only checking it once a day.
  • Keeping their phone with them but temporarily deleting the email app.
  • Taking an actual camera so that the need to whip out the phone every couple of minutes to take vacation photos is eliminated.

But it’s not just about the person who is going on vacation. They also need to set some boundaries too, by:

  • Letting coworkers, customers and suppliers know they will be away and won’t be responding to calls or emails, period.
  • Letting coworkers, customers and suppliers know they will be away but in the event of an emergency they can contact them on their partner’s number or at the hotel. (This should sort out the “emergencies” from the actual emergencies!)
  • Ensuring someone is in charge in their absence and making sure the team knows that what the stand in says goes.

Why you need to encourage your people to switch off on vacation: Conclusion

There’s really no one size fits all answer to the switching off on vacation issue. It can depend on the ingrained, existing company culture, and it can of course boil down to the industry, the company, the nature of the work, and the employee.

But the one take away from this is that if Human Resources takes an active role to play in gently persuading people to switch off - whether completely or partially, and to set communication expectations, it is highly likely that those employees will return to work in a more positive and productive state of mind.

And that’s better for them and better for the company.

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