How to Take a Vacation Without Worrying About Work

Canadian workers are suffering a vacation deficit: A mere 27 percent took their allotted paid time off in 2021. While a marked increase over 2020’s stat of 20 percent, it still means nearly three-quarters of employees are missing out on the restorative benefits of fully clocking out. (And by clocking out, we mean truly going on vacation: not taking a working holiday or “checking in from time to time.”)

Lack of vacation time can negatively impact individuals as well as organizations, notes human resources pro Wendy Giuffre. “If you don't take a guilt-free vacation, in the end, it will hurt your work, mental health and productivity,” says the president and principal consultant of Wendy Ellen Inc., an HR and benefits management consultancy based in Calgary and Edmonton, Alta.

Beyond the mental health argument for taking vacation time (worker burnout rates have hit 81 percent in one recent global survey), Giuffre describes how companies benefit from their team members — especially managers — clocking out.

“It gives people a chance to come back with a fresh mindset and a fresh outlook on their projects and their teams. And it gives the opportunity, if done correctly, for cross-training within an organization,” says Giuffre. Stepping up lets team members grow their skills, leading to more seamless vacations, and longer-term employee development.

Ready to reap the benefits of vacation? Prepare your team or clients with these three rules that lay the groundwork for a worry-free vacation.

1. Give your vacation notice

When it comes to providing notice, more is better. “At the beginning of the year when vacation schedules are set, [ensure] backup for transactional roles so that two people aren’t taking vacation at the same time,” says Giuffre. For senior roles, there is no hard-and-fast rule, but 30 days is a good goal post.

Canadians averaged 21 hours of extra work to prepare for and return from vacation in 2021 — spreading that time out gives you more time to prep your backup. Result: a smoother transition and less of that dreaded post-vacation stress.

2. Prepare your clients

Providing 30 days’ notice (or more) also gives you plenty of time to get your clients ready for your departure and out-of-office days.

“This gives you enough time to ensure outstanding projects or deliverables are complete before your departure. It also gives clients the time to brief you on any up-and-coming works if they haven’t done so already,” explains Giuffre.

3. Set everything to Do Not Disturb

Once you’ve set your team up for your absence, don’t be afraid to hit that Do Not Disturb button.

Craft your vacation auto-reply message to indicate who to call or email while you are out-of-office (clear it with your colleague first: “It sounds like that should be a no-brainer, but sometimes it isn’t,” says Giuffre).

Mark yourself as on vacation/out-of-office on project management tools like Trello or Asana, and team messaging apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat.

If you’ve got a laptop, fight the urge to take it with you on vacation. If you use a work phone and a personal phone, stash the work phone at home. “That way there is no temptation to check in,” says Giuffre, who explains that if you establish a pattern of being available on vacation, it’s very hard to change that perception.

But don’t worry, says Giuffre. “There’s always someone in your organization that — if there’s a true emergency — would know how to get hold of your personal device.”

Read more:

How Working from Anywhere Can Benefit Mental Health

Out of Office: The Psychology of Remote Work

Vacation Planning for Your Team

By Staples Canada

May 24, 2022