Do Not Disturb: Truly Disconnecting While Out of Office
Photo by GERARDO MR on Unsplash
Taking vacation is a regular part of life. Sometimes this may be a staycation (especially recently) and other times it’s a trip elsewhere. I used to be the person that would always have work on my mind even when I was out of office. Which brings up an interesting question to ask yourself if you do this… am I truly “out of office” and on vacation? If you’re still thinking about work, then the office has just moved from a physical location to living in your head. I found myself not enjoying my time off as much as I should have since my attention and focus was elsewhere. After reflecting on this, I decided to figure out how to truly disconnect when taking time off. Taking the time to focus on myself and enjoying the moment.
Recently, I took a week off of work and took a trip to Vermont to visit friends and be outdoors. Before starting my time off, I made sure to finish any obligations I had to get done and then immediately turned off all notifications in every way. I didn’t even think about work for that entire week. Instead, I focused on enjoying the time I had in Vermont. Eating a lot of great food, going on a hike, great conversations, etc. I came back feeling completely refreshed and ready to go for any challenges life throws at me!
Benefits of disconnecting
Helps avoid burn out
Coming from the tech industry, burn out is common. It’s hard to get out of a slump and feel like your old self if you don’t give time for yourself to get away from work (or whatever is causing it) and focus on what makes you happy. Come back with new energy and ideas Getting away can help you refuel your own body. There’s a practice to step away from a difficult problem and come back to it later or “sleep on it” to get ideas and solutions. This can apply to taking time off. Imagine this being a longer “sleep on it” time period with the exception being you don’t think about it until after you come back.
You stay fully engaged in your time off
If you’re taking the time to get away from work, you should live your life to the fullest. Completely engage in whatever you wanted to do during this time off even if it is just binging a TV show on a staycation (I have definitely done this). You might be surprised with what you notice when your attention is completely on that activity, trip, or goal.
Points out areas to share knowledge
By completely disconnecting, you’re going to be basically unreachable for a short period of time. If there are issues where it turns out that you are the ONLY person that can resolve it, that means there’s an opportunity to teach someone else how to do so. You should have a fellow team member that is capable to do the work that you’re typically on-point for, otherwise, you won’t be able to truly disconnect. This should point out ways to reduce your ”Bus Factor“.
How to disconnect
This is a list of things that I do and can vary from person-to-person. I’ve found this to be effective for when I want to disconnect.
1 to 2 weeks before vacation
- Make a list of the things I absolutely need to finish before disconnecting. This allows me to get perspective on what is important to accomplish so I can better focus my time prior to being out of office.
- Make sure there’s a back up plan for certain tasks that I do regularly and that there’s someone to cover any on-call schedules that I would be on.
Last day before vacation
- Set up out of office on my calendar to ensure meetings are decline and it’s clear that I won’t be available
- Turn off chat notifications and set myself as “away” (Slack, MS Teams, etc.)
- Set up an “OOO” status and put the date I will be back (“OOO until 9/1”)
- Turn off email notifications
- Set up an “OOO” responder email so those who work with me externally are also aware that I’m not available
- Send a message to the team with clear intention that you don’t plan to look at work messages and a phone number for emergencies only
- Leave my laptop at home, shut it down, and stow it away
- Avoid looking at work related chat or emails apps entirely. For those that have a hard time with this, remove those apps from your mobile device to help you stop that habit
- If I find myself thinking about work, I shift my focus to something related to the reasons why I took time off or just things in life outside of work
- Have fun and enjoy the time off!
Some of these things I do to disconnect can also be applied on a day-to-day basis to make sure you separate and dedicate time to both your work and life. I found it especially important when being fully remote.
This process has been very beneficial to my health and maintaining a work-life balance. I hope it can help you as much as it has helped me!
Credit to Tyler Barber for the great title suggestion and review