How to get the most out of a day off

Time off is necessary but planning an extended vacation may be stressful. These pointers will help show you how micro-vacations can positively benefit your lifestyle.


The idea of “vacation” often conjures up thoughts of trips to faraway lands. While it’s true that big trips can be fun and even refreshing, they can also take a lot of time, energy, and money. A lot of people feel exhausted just thinking about planning a vacation—not just navigating personal commitments and school breaks, but deciding how to delegate major projects or put work on hold, just so they can have a stress-free holiday. Because of this, some might put off their time away, figuring they’ll get to it when their schedule isn’t so demanding, only to discover at the end of the year that they haven’t used up their paid time off.

In my experience as a time management coach and as a business owner, I’ve found that vacations don’t have to be big to be significant to your health and happiness. In fact, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of taking “micro-vacations” on a frequent basis, usually every other week. These small bits of time off can increase my sense of happiness and the feeling of having “room to breathe.”

From my point of view, micro-vacations are times off that require you to use a day or less of vacation time. Because of their shorter duration, they typically require less effort to plan. And micro-vacations usually don’t require you to coordinate others taking care of your work while you’re gone. Because of these benefits, micro-vacations can happen more frequently throughout the year, which allows you to recharge before you’re feeling burnt out.

If you’re feeling like you need a break from the day-to-day but can’t find the time for an extended vacation, here are four ways to add micro-vacations to your life.

Weekend trips.Instead of limiting vacations to week-long adventures, consider a two- to three-day trip to someplace local. I’m blessed to live in Michigan, and one of my favorite weekend trips is to drive to Lake Michigan for some time in a little rented cottage on the shore or to drive up north to a state park. Especially if you live in an urban area, traveling even a few hours can make you feel like you’re in a different world.

To make the trip as refreshing as possible, consider taking time off on Friday so you can wrap up packing, get to your destination, and do a few things before calling it a night. That still leaves you with two days to explore the area. If you get home by dinnertime on Sunday, you can unpack and get the house in order before your workweek starts again.

There may be a few more e-mails than normal to process on Monday, but other than that, your micro-vacation shouldn’t create any big work pileups.

Margin for personal to-do items.Sometimes getting the smallest things done can make you feel fantastic. Consider taking an afternoon—or even a full day—to take an unrushed approach to all of the nonwork tasks that you really want to do but struggle to find time to do. For example, think of those appointments like getting your hair cut, nails done, oil changed, or doctor visits. You know that you should get these taken care of but finding the time is difficult with your normal schedule.

Or perhaps you want to take the time to do items that you never seem to get to, like picking out patio furniture, unpacking the remaining boxes in the guest room, or setting up your retirement account. You technically could get these kinds of items done on a weeknight or over the weekend. But if you’re consistently finding that you’re not and you have the vacation time, use it to lift some of the weight from the nagging undone items list.

Shorter days for socialization.As individuals get older and particularly after they get married, there tends to be a reduction in how much time they spend with friends. One way to find time for friends without feeling like you’re sacrificing your family time is to take an hour or two off in a day to meet a friend for lunch or to get together with friends before heading home. If you’re allowed to split up your vacation time in these small increments, a single vacation day could easily give you four opportunities to connect with friends who you otherwise might not see at all.

If you struggle to have an uninterrupted conversation with your spouse because your kids are always around, a similar strategy can be helpful. Find days when one or both of you can take a little time off to be together. An extra hour or two will barely make a difference at work but could make a massive impact on the quality of your relationship.

Remote days for decompression. Many offices offer remote working options for some or all of the week. If that’s offered and working remotely is conducive to your work style and your tasks, take advantage of that option.

Working remotely is not technically a micro-vacation, but it can often feel like one. (Please still do your work—I don’t want to get in trouble here!) If you have a commute of an hour or more each way, not having to commute can add back in two or more hours to your life that can be used for those personal tasks or social times mentioned above.

Also, for individuals who work in offices that are loud, lack windows, or where drive-by meetings are common, working remotely can feel like a welcome respite. Plus, you’re likely to get more done. A picturesque location can also give you a new sense of calm as you approach stressful projects. I find that if I’m working in a beautiful setting, like by a lake, it almost feels as good as a vacation. My surroundings have a massive impact on how I feel.

Instead of seeing “vacation” as a large event once or twice a year, consider integrating in micro-vacations into your life on a regular basis. By giving yourself permission to take time for yourself, you can increase your sense of ease with your time.

SOURCE:
Saunders E (28 May 2018). [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://hbr.org/2018/05/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-a-day-off


Employee Relations: Use Them, Don't Lose Them

HR Elements Content provided by United Benefit Advisors

Work. Work. Work. People work long hours at their jobs only to be rewarded by working long hours when they’re home. “I can’t wait until the weekend gets here,” they may say, but inevitably there will always be some chore or duty that needs to be done, or they may go back and work at their job... or even have a second job. Is there ever time to just sit back and relax?

 

Most employers recognize the need for their employees to take several days off in a row to help unwind. This is why a major benefit of full-time work is often the availability of paid vacation days. Yet fewer and fewer workers are taking advantage of this and, consequently, losing those paid days off. A study in Forbes in 2014 showed that only 25% of Americans used their vacation benefit. Why is that?

According to an article in Employee Benefit Advisors titled, “The Common Workplace Practice That's Costing Employers Billions,” one possible reason is that employees worry that their work will accumulate while they’re away. Another reason is that some people, especially if they have a management or leadership role, believe they are indispensable and need to be available.

Regardless of the reasons, employees at all levels within an organization need to take time off. That same article references the U.S. Travel Association, which says that employees who don’t use their paid time off are potentially costing employers more than $50 billion annually in lost revenue, employee turnover, and retraining costs.

The stress of not taking a vacation can be detrimental not only to a person’s health, but also to their productivity at work. An article titled, “Can Summer Stress Cause Employee Burnout?” in Employee Benefit News mentions that stress surpasses obesity and inactivity as a leading health risk at work.

Employees don’t need to take an entire week or more to destress. Nor do they need to travel. A few days off, or a mini vacation, that are spread throughout the year are enough as long as that time away from work is truly away from work. A complete disconnect from one’s job is necessary in order to achieve the desired benefit. It’s important to work hard, but also remember to play hard, too.

It's Called A "Day Off" For A Reason

Originally posted by United Benefits Advisors, LLC (UBA)

How many times have you asked an employee about his or her stress level only to get the response that they are too busy to be stressed? Whether overworked, overstressed, or a combination of the two, employees keep putting off taking a day off to relax and recharge.

Taking a vacation means to vacate, leave, or go away. However, just because an employer offers vacation days and paid time off doesn't mean that employees are going to take them. And it appears that many employees are staying at work and not taking their available time off.

An article on Workforce.com said that 2,000 adult employees in the U.S., who responded to a survey by Glassdoor, revealed that they used only half of their eligible time off in the past year. Another 15% of the survey participants hadn't taken any vacation days in the past 12 months. Why? An expert at Glassdoor said it was fear of losing their job that kept employees from taking time off.

That same survey found that of the employees who did leave the office, more than 60% tended to continue working during their time off and almost 25% of the participants said they were contacted by coworkers concerning a work-related matter -- 30% were contacted directly by their boss. That means employees don't believe they are "allowed" to disconnect from the office.

A different, but similar article on CNN.com stated that employees convince themselves that feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and not having time to take a day off is normal. But it's not normal. Plus, by not taking time off, the stress can become too much to handle and may cause employees simply to call in sick and lie to the boss. This creates its own level of stress for the employee.

An employee who feels the need to take time off, but doesn't, should be told that a way to maximize time off with a minimal impact to work would be to take a few days at a time instead of an entire week -- perhaps around a holiday to turn one day off into a three or four day weekend.

According to the CNN.com story, employees can develop a "learned helplessness" that's self-defeating and dangerous because it can lead to an undervaluing of self-worth. While stress can initially improve performance, over time or if the stress is excessive, then performance is reduced and employees don't do things as well as they should. Obviously, chronic stress is bad for anyone's mental and physical health and stress can often sneak up on a person when they least expect it, thus compounding the problem. Reducing stress allows an employee to be more productive, think more clearly, and work at a higher level.

Supervisors and HR departments can reduce this problem by insisting that employees take time off and REALLY take time off. Employees should be encouraged to unplug completely from the duties and responsibilities of work such as not answering their phones, stop checking email, and making themselves totally unavailable. Supervisors can lead by example and set the standard for the rest of the office.