It’s Called a Vacation Because You Vacate

The good news is, the amount of vacation time Americans take is rising. Last year, according to the Harvard Business Review, vacation time on average hit more than two weeks, at 16.8 days, up more than half a day over the previous year.

But the bad news is that many Americans are afraid to take all the vacation time they have. Fifty-four percent of all people in the U.S. report that they don’t take all the vacation coming to them. Forty-three percent of those say that the amount of work facing them upon vacation’s end is the cause, up 5% from the previous year.

It’s not just amount of work, of course, but the fear that vacationers will be seen as insufficiently committed to work, not keeping up, or not enough of a warrior to keep working week in and week out.

Do you fear the digital equivalent of this?

Being Purposefully Disconnected Has Benefits

Adding to all this is the ease by which U.S. workers can be connected. The phone, particularly, but also its siblings the tablet and the laptop mean that the lure of looking at e-mail and phone to check and respond has never been greater.

It’s important, though, to be purposefully disconnected from the office when you’re on vacation. As the HBR points out, taking a break has been proven to relieve stress and can even improve physical health by strengthening immune function. A vacation and good work-life balance is just a good strategy.

The word vacation has its roots in the Latin vacātus. It’s the past participle of “vacāre,” to be empty. Vacation means that the office is empty. It also means that vacationers empty themselves of the things that they are attached to all day, every day at your job. They are not present. Vacating includes cutting ties and connections to the routine. Take the family, but leave your mobile devices and other connecting devices behind.

How to Be Really on Vacation

Is that easier said than done? Not really. Like everything else in business, you need a plan.

One common plan is simply not to check e-mail. Create a message that you will be gone from x date to y date that will greet everyone who sends you an e-mail.

Media chief Arianna Huffington, writing in the Harvard Business Review, even recommends a tool called Thrive Global that will not only send an e-mail like this but delete the e-mail that prompted it. Her rationale? To free busy people from the stress a tidal wave of email can create. They simply won’t see a tidal wave of messages! The other idea is that, if an e-mail is urgent, the sender can re-contact you once you’ve returned.

Another idea? “Hide” your devices. Many conferences and vacations dedicated to purposefully disconnecting literally do this, taking away any smartphone, tablet, or laptop on your person or in your luggage.

Hiding doesn’t have to be literal to be effective. Put them in a designated place that is not to be accessed as you go to the beach, the lake, or the slope.

Take a vacation. It will all be there when you return.