Americans are notorious for not taking enough vacations. But during COVID, almost no one went. According to an IPX survey taken in July 2020, 92% of respondents canceled, postponed, or didn’t make vacation plans at all. This created a lot of pent-up demand for some much-needed rest and relaxation as more people are vaccinated and infection rates drop worldwide. However, remote workers face unique obstacles as well as opportunities when planning a vacation. Read on for tips on how to take a vacation when you work from home.
The Importance of Vacations for Remote Workers
The urge to get out of the house after quarantine and social distancing, combined with unused paid time off (PTO) and vacation dollars is fueling a spike in travel. Reports of significant increases in productivity and time behind the screen while working from home, mean that in addition to 2020 being an incredibly stressful year due to COVID, people have been burning the midnight oil.
All this stress and hard work can quickly lead to burnout. Characterized by cynicism, depression, and lethargy, burnout is a state of chronic stress that manifests most often when you are not in control of a situation or are working toward a goal that doesn’t provide a sense of purpose.
There are many strategies for dealing with burnout, but a vacation when you work from home is a great place to start. Visit loved ones you haven’t seen in over a year, take a fun family road trip, or get away from it all with a complete rest at a retreat or spa. Whatever you choose, the focus should be on relaxation and unplugging, especially from work.
The Benefits of a Vacation
If this is your first vacation as a remote worker, you may still hesitate to take time off. Perhaps you feel insecure and invisible working from home, concerned that you can be replaced. Or maybe you just find it difficult to unplug and leave work behind for a period of time. If you’re a freelancer, the obstacles to taking a non-working vacation are more difficult to overcome. Jobs need to be deferred, clients need to be notified, and there is always the possibility of losing a project or contract while away.
Despite the challenges however, taking a vacation is an important way to get respite and recharge. Science has shown that vacations reduce stress, prevent heart disease, improve productivity, and give you a good night’s sleep. It is even more important for remote workers to get away because, unlike office workers, if you work from home, you never leave the office. With these benefits in mind and a little advance preparation, you can take the plunge and vacation with confidence.
How To Prepare for Your Vacation
The right preparation will go a long way to ensuring your peace of mind while on vacation when you work from home. Follow these simple steps before you leave.
Plan Your Days off
As you set the dates for your vacation, try to plan around slow periods to limit the work that will pile up while you’re away. In addition, make sure to give your manager and/or clients plenty of advance notice. This gives your clients and employers enough time to dish out tasks you need to complete before you leave. It’s also important for you to communicate clearly to any team members or vendors that are affected by your absence. Make sure to set expectations for work to be completed while you’re away.
Organize Your Workload
List and prioritize all the tasks that you need to complete before you leave and work ahead if necessary. With no supervisor looking over your shoulder, you need to complete any critical tasks or have them covered or finished by others. Prioritizing into “must be done” and “nice to do” is important as well. And if you don’t get into the “nice to do” pile, don’t stress. As long as your necessary work is done, head off to your vacation stress-free.
Communicate Your Plans
As the time approaches for you to go, let everyone know what your plans are for vacation when you work from home. Since you’re not in the office every day, add information to emails, in chat channels, and on Zoom meetings. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself if necessary. Provide an alternate contact if appropriate and let people know when you’ll back. Set your “out of office” message on your email and voicemail as well.
Prepare to Unplug
Screen time increased to an astonishing 19 hours per day for remote workers during COVID. So, do yourself a favor and unplug as much as possible on vacation. Buy a paperback novel, play some shuffleboard, go swimming, leave your laptop at home, and use your smartphone sparingly.
Workation vs. Vacation
One of the perks of working remotely is the opportunity to work from anywhere you wish. This means that if you are unable to get away for a non-work vacation when you work from home, you may have the option of working while on vacation. This is great if you have little or no paid time off, or if you are a freelancer and can’t afford to take any time off.
- Financial. While a workation is not necessarily a low-cost vacation option, you are able to vacation while still earning money. For many this is what makes getting away possible, for others, it’s a good way to stretch your paid vacation days. In addition, you can choose to travel to low cost locales which can allow you to extend your time away.
- Time. Instead of being limited in your number of vacation days, a workation can be as long as you want. From a quick mid-week getaway to several months abroad, the choice is yours. Workations can also be used to extend your vacation if you add a few workdays before or after your non-work vacation days.
- Creativity. Getting away from the usual is a great way to stimulate new ideas. The novelty of new locations, the influx of new information, and exposure to different lifestyles and cultures all combine to get your creative juices flowing.
- Workload. Taking a workation means that there is no work piling up while you’re away. Keeping on top of your tasks while vacationing means there will be no long hours catching up when you return home.
- Rest. The biggest drawback to a workation is that you are not getting a complete rest, away from work and technology. A working vacation is a good option when the alternative is no vacation, or when there is a creative reason for your workation such as a writing retreat or team building. However, there is no replacement for getting dedicated R&R.
- Technology. Your choice of destinations may be limited by the requirements of your technology. For example, you will need to have a reliable and high-speed wireless connection. In addition, you need to have access to a stable supply of electricity. These requirements mean that more remote locations are unsuitable for a productive workation.
- Productivity. While a change in scenery is good for creativity, your productivity may take a hit, at least initially. It will take time to settle in, establish a workspace, and develop a schedule. During this time, expect that you will not be as productive as usual.
- Logistics. Not everyone can take off for weeks at a time due to family or other personal obligations. In addition, if you are taking a long workation it may also require looking into work visas and tax obligations. Luckily, the list of countries offering remote work visas is growing following COVID as a way to help struggling economies.
How to Plan a Workation
In order to enjoy a workation, it’s important to research and plan your trip carefully. Following the steps below can ensure that your time away is as happy and productive as possible
Deciding on your destination and accommodation ahead of time is key to your success. Ensure that you choose a location with all the amenities that you need. This includes technology such as high-speed internet, access to printers and scanners, and any other things you might require. In addition, if you are taking a long workation, you may want access to kitchen facilities and a quiet, dedicated workspace. Planning ahead also allows you to take advantage of lower and seasonal travel rates.
Take All the Right Tools
Make sure you take everything you might need. Nothing ruins a workation more than running round your destination trying to replace a charger or other piece of equipment that you forgot to pack. Take extras and backups to save you time and money. Research cell phone options as well. You may want to purchase another SIM card at your destination if it is more cost effective than arranging coverage by your usual service. Also, don’t forget that if you are traveling internationally, you may need to purchase power converters as well.
Establish a Workspace
Nothing sets you up for productive work better than creating a dedicated workspace. Whether it’s a corner of your room, a balcony, or a separate office space, setting up a place to help gets you into a work-oriented frame of mind. If you prefer to work in a more social environment, check to see if there are any local coworking spaces. Some of the bigger coworking companies have branches around the world and it may be worth obtaining a membership if you plan on moving around during your workation.
Set a Schedule
To prevent a further bleeding of your leisure time with your work time, it’s important to establish a daily work schedule. Set start and end times and make sure to allow for regular breaks and mealtimes. If you are working with people in different time zones, you may want to make sure to overlap your workdays by at least a couple of hours to allow for synchronous communication when necessary.
Vacation Is the First Step Toward Normalcy
Taking a vacation when you work from home is just as important as it is for office workers. Maybe more important due to the blurring of work and leisure that occurs when you work at home. Whether you make a complete break from work or decide on a workation, getting away from the everyday will recharge your batteries. This year, perhaps more than any other, we all need a little extra help in recovering from the stresses of the past year.
Do you vacation when you work from home? How do you let your clients or employers know? What type of vacation do you take? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and questions. We’d love to hear from you!
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