Even if technology has been playing an instrumental part in enhancing our productivity and providing us with stellar professional careers, we’ve evidently become so loyally attached to the always-connected, always-on work ethic, wherein we can still be reached for work-related matters at midnight or during extended holidays.
Although it’s not a bad thing for our professional lives per se, a lot of people these days are finding it hard to unplug, even when they’re supposed to be enjoying the fruits of their labor (i.e., on vacation).
The newfound ways in which we connect and the higher work expectations our employers have set greatly influenced the way we act, even when we’re outside of the office. Add that to our unavoidable need to use our mobile devices and our growing dependence on social media and we have hordes of salaried zombies in our midst.
It’s a known fact that Americans have the fewest paid vacation days. Europeans get to enjoy vacation days for periods reaching over about a month (it’s included in their rights) while we slave away in our office desks. Despite these truths, a lot of Americans opt to skip the few days they are given. The 2016 study from travel website Expedia, dubbed the Vacation Deprivation Report, had a remarkable finding: Americans only took 12 of the 15 paid vacation days they received from employers in the past year. Nine per cent of the respondents were worried that employers will have a negative perception of them when they use up all the allotted days off. Some 14% reported feeling high levels of guilt when taking these vacations
In a recent survey by Glassdoor, it has been revealed that when Americans take their vacation days, they aren’t 100% vacationing. Two-thirds (66%) have reported working while on vacation, which is higher than the number three years ago, in 2014 (61%).
According to workplace experts, there’s nothing wrong with working hard, as long as the work stays balanced with other aspects of your lives. Therefore, you need to make sure that you unplug at times. Disconnect from your office phone, turn off your mobile data and stop staring at your screen. Take a real vacation, it’s good for your general well-being!
Below are 10 simple, actionable tips to help you bring the balance back to ‘work-life imbalance.’
Take a break from work and from everything else that stresses you out. Recharge on your own terms. Take a vacation, treat yourself to a buffet or get a spa treatment. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just go!
Let your mind rest to relieve stress. Why make that report when your left eye is half-shut? Now close your eyes and try to relax. Maybe try a guided meditation to help you relax. When you wake up five minutes from now, I’m sure you’ll find that typo or missing data that your boss has been grumbling about.
It’s time to pay attention to the unused gym membership you’ve already paid for. By working to be physically healthy, you can improve your mental health, manage your stress levels and regulate your moods. Try to fit in 20 to 30 minutes of exercise in three times a week and keep your sugar and caffeine intake to a minimum, to help regulate your mood.
Why do you even bother to work hard when you’re not going to enjoy what you’ve worked for? Yes, investing money and saving are both practical and important parts of life, but you also need to indulge once in a while and treat yourself for all of your hard work. Go buy that tiny house that you’ve been eyeing for so long, plan that trip across Europe, upgrade to that new phone or vehicle that you want and would make your life that much easier. You won’t regret it!
Take a step back and remember how idealistic you were back when you were fresh out of university. Doesn’t it feel great? It’s as if you’re in your best shape and form, not like some overworked employee who spends 12 hours on the average to work on key projects. Find ways to rediscover your creative side. Who knows, it might help you find the spark in what you’re doing now.
This one seems like an obvious way to gain back your life balance, but the important thing when going on a vacation is to ensure that you’re 100% unplugged. It doesn’t have to be particularly long, but it has to give you the chance to really relax and unwind, without the stress from back at the office holding you back from having a good time. A true vacation can help boost your morale so that when you come back, you’ll be in tip-top shape, ready to perform and more productive than ever.
To ensure you fully utilize your time off, you’ll want to try something new while you are away. Explore a new area you’ve never been, try a foreign cuisine, jump from a cliff or from a plane if you must. What’s important isn’t so much in taking a big risk, but in locking down some amazing memories that will last long after you return to the 9 to 5 grind. Memories, especially those from vacations, can unleash emotion that are important to your overall well-being and give you a post-vacation buzz that will last.
If you’re at a point where you’re hardly hanging out with friends or you’re missing dinners with your spouse, it might be time to nurture them again. Spend time with the people who matter most in your life, it’s why you’re working hard in the first place. Don’t let an overabundance of work hold you back from your loved ones. Not only will it cause you to resent your job after time, you’ll miss out on creating amazing memories with those you hold dear to your heart.
At work, you can set an example by showing your colleagues that work-life balanced can be achieved. By having a happy balance between your work and personal life, you show others that it’s okay to rebalance their lives and take some more time for their family. You can be an advocate for it by encouraging them to take meaningful vacations, too.
The more experiences you have, the better your personal self will be. This can also spill over to your professional life, so never hesitate to take that much deserved break.
Carmel Galvin, Glassdoor chief human resources officer, made a good point about current employee vacation time realities. “While taking a vacation may make employees temporarily feel behind, they should realize that stepping away from work and fully disconnecting carries a ripple effect of benefits. It allows employees to return to work feeling more productive, creative, recharged and reenergized. In turn, employers should consider what a vacation really means – to actually vacate work – and how they can support employees to find true rest and relaxation to avoid burnout and turnover within their organizations.”
Klaris Chua is a digital content marketer who has written many pieces on startups and small business communications. She used to be a reporter for a business newspaper but the conventional path of a writer didn't appeal to her. You can connect with her on Twitter.