Taking time off of work can be hard for just about everyone, no matter the industry. For industries and agencies like ours, one of the added challenges is that we all work remotely. When you work from a home office, it can be particularly difficult to switch off.
This came up recently at Daggerhart Lab while talking about some of us taking time off for the first time since late 2018 or 2019. While this is a problem of privilege in many ways, it does not invalidate the importance of taking time off. We all need time to get refreshed when and if it’s available to us. That’s why it is especially crucial to ensure you’re shutting all the way down from work while taking time off.
For many, this is a lot easier said than done due to personality type, management pressure, or expectations – not to mention the sometimes incredibly demanding and unique responsibilities of different jobs. When you add being used to working remotely and creating workspaces wherever needed, it can be particularly easy to justify “a quick check-in” when you’re off-hours.
So, what did some of us do to really make ourselves unavailable?
It’s All About Setting Boundaries
As cliche as it may sound, it really is all about setting boundaries for yourself. From the standpoint of a Daggerhart Lab employee, I can personally attest that I’ve never been contacted during the off hours when I’m not at work. That being said, everything else we do to create quietude while taking time off is completely up to us as individuals.
Some of the ideas below may seem obvious, but we all agreed that following through on these tactics can be really challenging. While it can be difficult at first, these have been game-changers for all of us.
All of the following tips apply whether you’re going out of town or taking a lowkey “staycation” at home.
- Close out all work-related apps on your phone and computer.
- Be sure to turn off notifications for work-related apps. It can be hard to ignore a little badge telling you how many emails will be waiting for you when you return to work.
- Keep your work conscience clear by ensuring your teams are well aware of your days off and prepared to cover you.
See? They seem so simple – but breaking patterns is tough stuff.
Your Company Vacation Policies Matter
Knowing your company’s vacation policies is important! That said, in the United States, under the Federal Medical and Family Leave Act eligible citizens are (technically) legally obligated to time off. That said, the word “eligible” is used here and you can probably (accurately) guess that red tape makes it hard to (actually) receive. Equally, some companies use shady wording in their company handbooks about their employee’s ability to take time off and keep their jobs, which they ask employees to sign. In other cases, there have certainly been years that a few of us couldn’t afford to take time off with or without PTO. So, the point is – when it becomes possible to take that time off, it’s essential to do it well!
There are also a number of us that worked for previous agencies with an “unlimited paid time off” policy. This sounds rather appealing but hasn’t worked very well in our own professional experiences. Instead, we noticed that “unlimited paid time off” resulted in people taking less time off. Then, when they did take time off, they didn’t stop working completely. There ended up being this sense of guilt and obligation as if they were taking advantage of something as opposed to enjoying a benefit provided for their hard work. That’s why we chose the vacation policy we did: to encourage people to take the time they deserve.
Use Your Vacation Time, Don’t Hoard It
With our team, we only roll over 7 vacation days into the next year. This might sound stingy, but that is not our goal or intention. We’ve found that unless someone is encouraged to use their PTO, many times they just won’t do it. We truly value people taking this time for themselves!
It’s become a part of our country’s culture to not take vacations and to overwork ourselves. “Hustle Culture” by name, is not a healthy or sustainable path for everyone. At Daggerhart Lab, we don’t want that for our own lives, or the lives of our employees. Burnout is real, and all of us have experienced it – but no one deserves to.
Switching Off With Internet Everywhere
You can be just about anywhere and have internet access these days. From a beach vacation in Monaco to deep in the Colorado Rockies, you’ll still get wifi. You can live in a van down by the river and get online. It’s way too easy to get online and check in these days, so work on setting (and keeping!) your personal and professional boundaries when you are taking time off.
So, as a remote worker – remember the couple of steps at the top of the blog and make yourself unavailable. The show will go on, and you will be all the better for it!