With the initial chaotic scrambling of the Covid-19 pandemic behind us, many workforces are currently left feeling exhausted, burnt out, and demoralized to the point of being unproductive, or even useless.
It may sound dramatic but it’s true: the heart wants what it wants, and I’m here to tell you that it wants a vacation. If you listen to your heart, it’ll probably tell you the same.
As the pandemic escalated, work demands continued to rise. As large swaths of the workforce began to work remotely, time saved commuting to and from work was gradually converted to an extension of the workday—at both ends.
Last year when even more people were still working remotely than are now, people were logging about three work hours extra per day. It has become harder and harder to get a meaningful reprieve from work at any point throughout the day.
To make matters worse, many people, in part discouraged by limitations on travel, and in part just too burnt out to think straight, have cancelled their travel plans right along with their time off.
Fact: it seems we still need to be having crucial discussions on the importance of work-life balance and mental health. The basic truth here is that vacation is more important than ever!
Why you need to take your time off
If you know that time off is urgently needed but you’re worried about your bottom line, consider that with logged work hours at such an incredible high, people’s capacity to focus and produce quality work has taken a serious nosedive. There’s plenty of research out there which demonstrates the benefits of vacations to employee productivity. If you still need convincing, consider that unused vacations have cost American businesses at least $224 billion a year. Don’t be deluded into believing that anyone (yourself included) can keep up the good work without a taking a break.
Chances are, you know all this and are here looking for some creative guidance on how to instigate a much-needed recharge for yourself and your team. Think of it this way: sometimes making a plan you can get excited about in advance is everything. So, go ahead and ask yourself how you’ll spend your vacation in 2022. Ask your team the same question. Here are some inspired ideas on how to spend vacation time. Take them to heart and share them around.
Top travel trends right now
Although the world (and the workforce) looks a lot different right now than it did 2019, in many parts of North America, things are slowly starting to get back to ‘normal.’ According to the CDC, just over half of Americans are fully vaccinated. This means that as vaccination levels continue to rise, restrictions loosen, and (some) borders open up to travel, better vacations are poised to make a comeback.
If you’ve had a stressful year (or two), the last thing you feel like doing is worrying about coordinating flights, taxis, hotel stays, excursions, and dinner reservations. There’s a right time for more uniquely adventurous trips, but now may not be it. Sometimes, vacations need to be relaxing first and foremost. Booking an all-inclusive trip usually means your flight, accommodations, food and drink are all taken care of at once—and without the need to expend any extra energy.
Cabins in the woods
Since, ultimately, travel still feels somewhat uncertain due to the ongoing pandemic, a week or two away at a cabin may feel like a safer bet. Hell, it may even speak to you much more than hopping on a plane. Try to get one with a hot tub, a fireplace, and easy access to a lake and a boat. Whether you need solo time, a romantic getaway, or a trip with friends, there are plenty of tranquil, well-equipped cabins available at a range of budgets.
If there’s a trip you’ve booked before or a specific place you’ve frequented and loved every time, consider heading back. In this time of stress and exhaustion, no one need cling to the idea that novelty and new horizons are always what the doctor ordered. So return to your old favorite haunt and soak up a vacation that’s comfortable, familiar, and perfectly well-suited to your needs.
Wellbeing as central
Whether your plan is to catch a flight out of dodge and make a beeline for a tropical paradise, or you’re looking for a cottage in a forest just a short road trip away, consider adding an intentional self-love and wellness element to your vacation. Whether in the form of yoga classes, workouts, massages, or spa treatments, you won’t be sorry once you return to work and are still feeling the effects.
Chances are you’re not quite as isolated from family and friends as you were earlier in the pandemic. Many people currently booking vacations are prioritizing that vital human connection with loved ones that was for so long pushed to the back-burner. Prioritize connection by planning a getaway with dear friends, a family reunion, or a much-needed one-on-one romantic beach retreat with your partner.
People are going to need a long time to get over not being able to eat out for so long, and having to cook a lot more, so it’s no surprise that foodie-oriented vacations are a popular choice right now. Whether close to home or at a resort abroad, why not enjoy the experience of an actual restaurant or wine bar again, only with expert chefs and sommeliers in charge?
How to make the most of your time off
Once you’ve hatched a plan—even if that plan is no plan at all, or a staycation for the ages—it never hurts to reflect on how you might get as much as you can from your time off. Y’know, so you can come back feeling like new.
Take enough time off
Don’t plan a vacation that’s roughly half the length of what you actually require to unwind. Most people need at least a few days just to start relaxing. While you may be the type to feel refreshed by a shorter stint, be honest with yourself. If you’ve accumulated a bunch of vacation days, consider the fact that they’re there to be used, and that you may even lose them if you don’t. Hot tip: bookending your vacation between two weekends is a smart way to lengthen your time off.
Cover all your bases
Many people avoid or delay taking time off because they worry there’s no way to leave without creating more work for themselves, both before and after vacation. Some even worry that taking time off during a difficult time for the company may create the impression they’re not dedicated to their work. Some simple planning can address these concerns. Have a gander at the work to be done while you’re away, and do what you can before leaving—within reason. Determine what can wait and what needs doing while you’re gone. Then, delegate urgent tasks to colleagues and set yourself a reasonable schedule for catching up post-vacation. Taking these steps will make your vacation sweeter and your return much less stressful.
Set boundaries while away
Before you take off, be sure to clarify expectations. Will you check messages while away or be available to put out fires? The right answer here is no. But if you really must, limit it to set times. Set an out-of-office email greeting so people aren’t waiting to hear back from you, and include the contact info for anyone covering for you if in case of emergency. Also if you use the same devices for work as for leisure, you might consider temporarily turning off all notifications or deleting your email and other work apps.
Disconnect more deeply
Most people want their vacation time to feel a lot different from life and work as usual. Consider the fact that one of the things you may need a break from the most is staring at a screen. To this end, taking a break from social media or reading the news can do wonders to help you relax and really make the most of your time off. Try leaving your devices behind, turning them off, and/or only using them as truly needed.
Much like food, sleep, and the company of other humans, time spent not working is integral to sustaining our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. For the success of your team, do all you can to inspire and facilitate their vacations. And, again, for the success of your team, start planning your own vacation while you’re at it!