Taking a vacation from work is something we all need to do more often. The American worker does not take enough of their given vacation time at any given point. A recent study done by GfK Knowledge Panel found that 55% of Americans had unused vacation days in 2015. Beyond whether or not workers are taking vacation comes the issue of how work and personal life interact with each other when vacation time is taken. Listed below are five scenarios that are common to us all. Don’t look at any scenario as the “right way.” Instead, think of which scenario best suits your personal tastes. How you choose to navigate vacation is perfectly fine as long as it is your choice.
Scenario 1: No (or little) Vacation. Vacation? Who needs that when you got work to do and money to make. If your company will pay you for unused vacation days when you leave then you have even less reason to take days off. Work hard and cash those days out when you move on.
Scenario 2: Vacation Taken/Time Donated. Vacation sounds great so you decide to take it. You are so happy to visit the parents two states away or visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You’re out of the office physically (you even set up your autoreply telling people that) but you are on your cell phone or laptop every chance you get to deal with work. You’re donating your vacation/personal time to the company and you’re glad to do it (or are you?).
Scenario 3: The Work-cation. You’re with the parents or at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and for a finite amount of time a day you have decided to deal with work so that things are manageable when you get back. You’ve negotiated with your boss that you’re going to claim 6 hours of vacation per day instead of the standard 8. There’s less chance of negative spillover because you are prepared for and agree to the terms.
Scenario 4: The On-call Vacation. . You go on vacation and you tell work to only contact you in an emergency or on an as-needed basis. How you report your time will depend on the scenario. I once had to deal with an incident while on vacation that ate up a day so we didn’t input that as a vacation day. That was rare and most of the time small interruptions were ok as they did not eat up major time.
Scenario 5: True Vacation. Turn off the tech and enjoy the time off. I think this is the concept of vacation most of us expect or at least were raised to expect. For many of us the world of work is far more complex but this is still a great and desirable option. The downside of course is having mounds of email and tasks to do when you get back. You’re willing to deal with that because recharging your batteries here and now is what matters most to you.
Like I said, there is no right or wrong in any of these scenarios and there may be times where one of these options is going to be the most logical. The key is to exercise control over these scenarios. It is when the scenarios are dictated to us that we begin to feel burned out, undervalued, or insignificant. Being forced to unplug from work can be just as ineffective as having vacation eaten up by office assignments. Understand and advocate for how you want your work and vacation to interact and increase your work life satisfaction.
Paul Artale is a work-life and leadership expert. For more information please visit www.paulartale.com