working during vacation - how to deal with the holiday guilt

Are you one of those people that are working during vacation? Or do you belong to the forty percent of Americans that don’t use their paid vacation time? And why? Well, research shows that those people are afraid of getting their worked piled up, or worse, being replaced while they are gone. Additionally, they are feeling nervous, guilty or ashamed when requesting time off. Even though these fears are understandable, usually, they are not realistic.

Even though the Western world has been dominated by the ‘no days off’ culture that encourages you to keep working hard towards your goals and dreams, truth is, taking time off is extremely good for your mental health. In fact, the latest study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management proves that taking time off work can increase your productivity and engagement levels, combats exhaustion and burnout, and boost your happiness.

But despite all the facts that encourage you to clock out and recharge your batteries, many people are still trapped by ‘vacation guilt’. And even if they do take that long-overdue trip, they are still working during vacation. So when you feel the uneasiness starting to creep in, here are a few guilt-banishment things you can do to remind yourself that you can and should take time off.

How to Have Guilt Free Holidays

Well, if we put it this way, feeling vacation guilt and working during vacation can actually be taken as good signs that you are a conscientious worker that cares about their career growth and their teammates. But doesn’t make enjoying guilt-free holidays impossible.

Even if you take just one or two days off, instead of cringing from the idea that you will not be at your desk, employ the following tactics that will help you put your mind at ease so you can actually relax.

Plan Ahead and Give Advance Notice

OK, before you start protesting, I know. Planning ahead can be a tricky business. And doing extra work ahead of time can actually make taking time off more stressful. Unless it’s an impromptu day off, you should start planning and preparing a few weeks in advance. It will help you set your own deadlines and distribute the workload.

Portfolio Kanban - Reduce Overburden - Improve Flow

Once you have your days off approved, block that time off your calendar. It will signal others not to schedule meetings or assignments during that time. And of course, choose colleagues that can take over your daily tasks while you are away. (Make sure to return the favor when the time comes). Using a visual system, like Kanban, can make planning and reassigning tasks easier since it will allow your team members to have a clear overview of the tasks they’ll need to cover while you are away.

working during vacation - how to deal with the holiday guilt

Manage [Tech] Boundaries

If you want to really stop working on vacation, you need to set healthy boundaries and limit communication with the office. Set an informative but [cool] out of office message, state when you’ll be back, and name the person people can get in touch with while you’re away. You can still check your email or make a few calls to ensure you haven’t missed anything important, but try to limit your ‘office time’ to one hour per day.

Additionally, you should manage your devices. If you can’t set aside your phone or laptop, you can at least make sure to set different ring tones and notification sounds for calls and messages that come from friends, family, or work. And set an autoresponder, state when you’ll be back and name the person that answers any questions in your absence.

Ease your Way Out and Back In

Another thing you should consider is buffering work exits and re-entries. Working until the last minute usually leads to working during vacation. So try to finish all the work you can on time, but take one extra day before departing to rewind and enter vacation mode. It is also helpful to stay an extra day at home after you return so you can unpack and adjust to normal life (and work).

If You Can’t Go Away, Take a Staycation

If going away isn’t an option, try to at least take a staycation. Yup, you read it right. You can take time off and stay at home. But you should still do all the things we mentioned above. Staying at home on your time off should not be the same as working from home.

Instead, try to break away from your regular routine and unplug. Take a day trip with your friends, dedicate more time to your hobbies, or just finish that book you bought. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to refrain from working during vacation.

Enjoy Your Vacation, You Earned It!

Nowadays, when everybody stays super busy in attempt to be appreciated and valued. We need to remind ourselves that no time off can only lead to burnout. We are entitled to time off for a reason. And we need to stop viewing rest as a waste of time. Because taking a break is actually good and healthy. Not only does it help us recharge our batteries, but it allows us to start working again refreshed and more focused.

So next time you are wondering whether you should ask for vacation days, or wish to check your work emails on your days off, remind yourself that you earned your vacation! So go enjoy it!

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About the Author: Ivana Sarandeska

Ivana Sarandeska is a digital marketer, creative writer and master procrastinator. An Agile enthusiast and a firm believer that thorough planning is key to good execution and even better improvisation. She has a soft spot for technology, so most of her full-time jobs were in IT companies where she was introduced to Agile and Scrum. After she got her Scrum Basics certification she started actively using these methodologies and their main principles. Learning how to organize her time and tasks better has motivated her to dive deeper into these methodologies. Now, she is an avid advocate of Agile and Scrum and happily shares her knowledge and experience to fellow procrastinators.