Advice

Philly Business Execs on How to Truly Unplug on Vacation

Disconnecting from the office is no easy feat. Here’s what it takes to really unwind while away, according to local leaders.


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There are a lot of reasons to love the Shore (here are 21), but it’s hard to find boardwalk bliss when you’re still swimming deep in professional obligations. When it comes to vacation, have you found yourself spending more time on Slack than trying to relax? Or do you suffer from a nagging out-of-office anxiety? If you’ve never been able to really unplug on vacation, but want to, it might be time to try some new techniques. We talked to a few Philly business executives for advice on truly unplugging while unwinding. Here’s what they said:

Ask for help

“If you are checking messages while you are on vacation, then you are not truly on vacation,” Noah Ostroff told Philly Mag. The Philly Living chairman added, “When you are on vacation, be on vacation!”

“For many people, [unplugging] is hard because if you don’t keep up with your work while you are away, you get ‘punished’ with a pile of work to come back to when you return from vacation,” Ostroff explained. “I bring in a partner to help me out with my work while I am away and direct people to reach out to that person while I am away.”

MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman agreed, advising: “Delegate, delegate, and delegate again. Provide the contact information of members of your team that can be contacted during your absence, and let them know what they specifically can help with. Also communicate that you will be in touch when you get back, including the date if possible!”

Keep it in perspective

“Fitting enough, I’m sending this on vacation,” Alkemy X CEO Justin Wineburgh said in an email to Philly Mag. His advice focused on keeping what’s important in check. “Rarely anything is ever a true emergency. [Most times, email] does not require an immediate response. Once you get into this mindset, you’re able to truly unplug,” he said. “Perspective is key. Non-urgent matters resolve or are handled by someone else. Or will be there when you get back. Or, the surprisingly vast majority of the time, become totally irrelevant.”

Turn off notifications

Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, said the key is to “actually turn off notifications [on your electronic] devices. Without those dings or red alert dots, you’re much more likely to stay unplugged. If there’s an emergency at work, let key people know exactly how to contact you and make sure they understand it’s for emergencies only.”

Cassandra Bailey, CEO of Slice Communications, cautioned that to be effectively unplugged, “you have to be committed to it. If it means turning off notifications on multiple devices or leaving laptops or iPads at home entirely to unplug, do it. Even just peeking at emails can start to cause stress. We have all gotten used to being tapped in 24/7 that this may feel a bit uncomfortable but it’s the healthy thing to do.”

Leaders: Set an example for your team

Bailey added: “Practice what [you] preach. If the company says they respect employees work-life balance, stand by it. Vacation is the definition of balancing out your work life with your personal life.”

Echoing Bailey, Berman explained, “I remind myself of Ariana Huffington’s endorsement of adequate rest as a gateway to success. Productivity is integral to running any successful business, but it is contingent on one’s health. So to avoid the temptation to work when I’m not supposed to be working, I remember that taking care of myself is taking care of my business.”

Can’t save this vacation? Plan for next time

To protect future employee trips, Brownstein Group CEO Marc Brownstein instituted a vacation messaging plan at his office.  “If it’s a message you need to know, but doesn’t have urgency, then we send it via email. If it has more urgency, then we text/Slack. Overall, we believe vacations are sacred for clearing your head and returning fresh to work with new ideas.”

Reynolds added, “Start planning your boundary-setting for the next vacation. How will you stop this from happening again? Who do you need to meet with ahead of time to delegate responsibility? How will you let people know that you’re going to truly unplug? Planning ahead and communicating with your coworkers is really important to make sure you’re able to really unplug when you’re on vacation.”