MONEY Careers

How to Disconnect from Work (Without Getting on the Boss’s Bad Side)

Man alone in the mountains
No cell tower in sight—you're free! Valeria Mameli—Getty Images/Flickr Open

Check out these ideas from savvy career coaches for keeping your job from spoiling your summer vacation.

Chances are, you’ll be spending some of your time off this summer with a piña colada in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

According to a recent survey by employment website Glassdoor, 61% of us have done at least some work on a vacation in the last 12 month.

Not that this is always voluntary. Of those who logged on while they were supposed to be logged off, a third did so because they felt that no one else could do their work; 28% did so to avoid getting behind; 24% say they were contacted by a colleague on a work issue, 20% by a boss. And while 20% gave up part of their time off because they were in pursuit of a promotion, nearly the same number (17%) stayed connected because they feared for their jobs.

Clearly, it’s tougher than ever to get a real vacation in these times of uber-efficiency, double workloads, and 24-hour connectedness. And yet all those factors mean you need a break more than ever—if not for your own mental health, for those you love. After all, one in 10 employees confessed that a family member had complained about their working on vacation.

Seriously, you deserve a break; you’ve earned it. So MONEY called on career coaches, business etiquette experts, and corporate wellness gurus for tips on how to put your work life on pause to finally enjoy some real time off.

1. Go really off the grid. “Plan your vacation for a destination where there is limited access to email and virtually any other way to be reached. For example, an African Safari or a cruise. An athletic vacation (like a bike trip) or one that is focused around learning (like cooking school) will have a full schedule of events and activities that are pre-planned and where your absence will be disruptive. Regardless of where you go, advise everyone that you will have limited access to email.” —Roy Cohen, a career coach and the author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide

2. Go at the right time. “Exercise good judgment about when to schedule your trip. One of my clients learned that mistake when she insisted on taking a vacation despite knowing that a transaction was about to close and that all hands were expected on deck. Her boss and colleagues were angry and did not appreciate having to cover for her during a time when they were all working against the clock.” —Roy Cohen

3. Make a list, and check it twice. “Devise a list of what is outstanding—what tasks and responsibilities need to be taken care of, where important files are, what might come up while you are away and who can take care of it. See what makes sense to delegate or put off until you return. Go over it with your boss and key people who are involved. Knowing you have a plan in place while you’re on vacation will help you enjoy it more.”—Kirsi Paalanen, a health coach who specializes in helping corporate professionals manage stress

4. Define “emergency.” Post an away message on your voice mail and email that reflects your decision about how you want to be contacted for an emergency. This will include your defining in advance what the definition is of an emergency that you want to know about and set expectations for how you will handle it— e.g. make a phone call? produce a report remotely? fly home from Asia?” —Debra Feldman, an executive talent agent

5. Call in a sub. “Make sure that you have a designated person in place to handle any unexpected events. Share enough to enable a colleague to cover for you and to show that you are a team player, but not all of your secrets or you may find your value diminished. If you are going somewhere exotic, always return with a few inexpensive but significant gifts for colleagues as an expression of your appreciation.” —Roy Cohen

6. Take people at their word. “If your bosses truly tell you not to respond to something, then really do it and give yourself that break.” —Lizzie Post, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th edition

7. Allow yourself limited access. “A young investment banker client of mine was about to go on his honeymoon in Hawaii and asked if I thought it would be terrible if he worked on his smartphone during the trip. I told him that if I were his wife, I would throw the device into the ocean. Our compromise was that he would dedicate one half hour a day to answering and reading emails, and that he would do it completely out of sight of his wife. If it’s absolutely necessary to check in, limit communications to a set time each weekday or maybe even two to three times a week.”—Ellis Chase, a career coach and the author of In Search of the Fun-Forever Job

8. Don’t punish yourself for failure. “You want to be a great professional and parent and partner, but all are part time jobs, and you won’t always be able to be great at all roles. Forgive yourself and don’t feel guilty when you slip up. Just reset your priorities so you can get back to your family and vacation.” —George Dow, a career coach who specializes in job transitions

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