Vacation – Why Can’t You Hang Up and Hang Out?


VACATION – How do you feel when you hear that word?

Being on vacation means “vacating” your regular routine, activities, and environment. It’s a time to get out of your rut and do something different.

A vacation may sound fun and exciting and a time you’ll look forward to. However, for some, it may cause tension or anxiety.

This may be because of:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed by planning a vacation; agreeing on a destination, figuring out logistics, etc.
  2. Cost – traveling can be expensive
  3. Not having a travel companion OR not having the RIGHT travel partners (family might be challenging)
  4. Feeling anxious about being away from work: fear of all the catch-up work that will be waiting; feeling that nothing will get done right when you’re away; fear of missing out.

All of these reasons may make it difficult to disconnect from work.

While I can’t offer great insights for overcoming the first three reasons, I have ideas about #4.

Post-pandemic data is skewed since many people didn’t travel much until 2022. But a 2020 survey by Allianz Global Assistance found that 57% of Americans did not take a vacation in 2019, with 24% reporting that they did not take any vacation time in over a year.  The average number of unused vacation days per employee was 6.5 in 2018 – more than a full work week!

If you need to be convinced that time away from work is a good idea or tips so your time away is more enjoyable, here are a few ideas:

Manage expectations before you depart:

    • Plan for when you’ll be away by letting others know when you will be out and unavailable.
    • Tie up loose ends BEFORE leaving, where possible.
    • Designate a go-to person in your absence for the day-in and day-out activities that will continue while you’re away.
    • Communicate your out-of-office contacts with your key stakeholders. Include their contact info in your email out-of-office message.
    • Bring your out-of-office contact up to speed on work-in-progress so they are prepared. Having coverage while you’re away will significantly impact being able to disconnect!

Think of vacation as self-care healthcare

Engaging in activities you enjoy or simply taking time to rest can improve your overall well-being and mental health. Take advantage of the time to relax and recreate – Say the word differently: Re-create to renew!

    • See new sights, meet new people, and even experience different cultures, all of which broaden perspectives.  Learning something new (a new language, skiing, backpacking, cooking, etc.) can improve our self-esteem by conquering challenges that don’t exist in our daily routines.
    • Make time just to BE. Do nothing – hang out. We are always so busy “doing.” “Being” allows time and space for self-reflection, creativity, and inner peace.

Create memories you WANT to remember

Sharing good times and adventures offers the setting to form long-lasting bonds of love and friendship.  While the vacation is over, you will always have memories and can enjoy reflecting on the incredible experiences.  When I’ve asked my kids to think about their favorite times, it’s ALWAYS about the vacations we took together.  That’s truly priceless!

    • Will you honestly remember that awesome spreadsheet you created at work?  That account you closed?  That presentation you delivered?
    • NO ONE at work will remember you fondly for NOT taking your vacation.  Your family and friends will remember…but it won’t be a good memory.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to think about where and when you can take a break from work. Life is short, so make it about more than work. When you get away you’ll come back refreshed and more productive!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner at PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @MDuesterhoft.