Here’s sad news: More than four in 10 Americans feel guilty for relaxing on vacation, according to a recent survey from Princess Cruises. In fact, almost a third of people get stressed at the mere thought of relaxing.
“We aren’t giving ourselves permission to truly let go and relax,” says Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president, in the press release. “And whether that’s because of the demands on our intense lives or our own guilt, this is an unsustainable trend that can have a genuinely adverse impact on our society as a whole.”
One thing that might help is leaving work at the office, but for many people, that’s difficult. In one poll, more than three-quarters of Americans said they’ve worked while on vacation in the past year, and 56% of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past 12 months, according to a survey by Allianz Global Assistance.
Here are some strategies from workers who manage to disconnect—at least mostly.
Give clients lots of notice. “About a month before I go out of town, I let my clients know what the plan is and remind them again a few days before I leave,” says Allison Olmstead, who owns her own publicity business.
Repeat it as often as possible. “We put a message in our email signature the week before leaving to inform anyone contacting us so they’re aware of us being gone the following week,” says John Schmoll, Jr., who runs an ad agency with his wife.
Step back from the news cycle. “Everybody needs to unplug sometimes, and if any news is big enough to require your attention, it’ll reach you no matter what,” says David Richman, entrepreneur and author of Winning in the Middle of the Pack. “Your clients needs you to be fresh and sharp, so take some time to relax when you’re supposed to relax. Leave the laptop at home, leave the phone in your room, read a book instead of the paper.”
Connect just once a day. Sometimes it’s not possible to disengage 100% from work—but that doesn’t mean you have to toil all the time. “I never completely disconnect from work when I’m on vacation,” says Sabrina Atienza, CEO and founder of Qurious, a quantum circuit design platform. “Each morning, I escape for 30-45 minutes to manage my email. Closing each email I send, I mention that I’m off the grid for the rest of the week. This prevents people from sending me excessive follow-up emails.”
Do the minimum. “Try to focus only on ‘keeping the ball moving’ when on vacation, and don’t try to work on complex projects such as strategy or organizational issues,” says Henrik Kjellberg, president of travel booking site Hotwire. “If a crisis arises, then definitely engage, but only to the extent that is needed.”
Set up office protocol. “Asking colleagues to call or text in the case of a true time-sensitive issue helps,” says Lissa Poirot, editor in chief of FamilyVacationCritic.com. “This way, I know that if I haven’t heard anything, I’m not missing anything, and I feel less pressure to check in ‘just in case.’”
Go far, far away. “Force yourself to go ‘off the grid’ by visiting a place where there is no Internet whatsoever, or at least within easy reach,” says Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of computer repair service Nerds On Call. “Think an African safari, camel trekking in Egypt, a river cruise down the Danube. It may seem hard to do, but you can be sure you won’t be pestered by work emails.”
Power down. “I have found it impossible to disconnect from work on vacation,” says Scott Gabrielson, CEO and founder of fashion brand Oliver Cabell. “The only strategy that has worked for me is to actually turn off my phone.”