What it Means to Actually Unplug from Work

Is the inability to unplug so terrible?

Maybe Not, It’s Just the Way of the Future

While most of us don’t want to work all the time, when we’re away from work a lot of us are thinking about work and regularly checking in. According to this survey, Millennials have the hardest time unplugging, then Gen X, then Baby Boomers. Regardless of age, it’s very common for workers to check in when they’re out of the office.

With our all-access, always-on culture, perhaps unplugging just doesn’t feel natural.

While the inability to unplug is generally thought of as negative, it’s very possible we’re so connected because work is truly motivating. And some of us do our best work late at night. After all, workforces all row the boat together but that doesn’t mean we all have to row at the same time. If a colleague sends an email at midnight, it might not be a point of concern. They might be hitting a stride and getting stuff done.

Ultimately work-life balance is about finding the right integration that works – for you. Connectivity has been made convenient for a reason. Some employees are not productive from 9 to 5, so pursuing alternatives could work to everyone’s advantage. The bottom line is people should be able to work when and where they want. Good management puts people first and steps out of the way to empower employees to fulfill their own success.

It’s different, though, when we deliberately decide to unplug on vacation. Should we be expected to check in? What steps can be taken to ensure we return refreshed?

Tips for Effective Unplugging

Offload Tasks

Most of us take time off because we need to unplug. 

And when we take a vacation, we have to work twice as hard — before and after — to make up for that lost time. We leave work, but work doesn’t leave work.

That’s why it’s best to communicate your absence early on and be deliberate about offloading tasks to other capable team members. This will help you relax while you’re away and make returning to work easier.

Nudge Management

If you really need to unplug, perhaps it’s time to nudge management to create a consistent protocol. The ability to unplug on vacation is often more so a question of management implementing consistent expectations than an employee shutting off their worker-bee personality. Management needs to create a consistent expectation that respects time off. There’s more to that point below.

Don’t Just Turn on Your Out-of-Office Email, Turn it Up 

Have an out of office email that’s unique and perhaps brutally honest, like some of these.

Rather than telling a client their message will be received in x amount of days, maybe just tell them their message has been deleted, and encourage them to email someone else or respond when your vacation period has concluded.

Also, emailing less, in general, is good for you. Find out more here.

Take Control of Your Career Satisfaction

Generally speaking, checking in with work when you’re away may not be the worst thing. It’s only bad if that impulse is stress driven — if you feel pressured by workplace anxiety or an overloaded task list. Remember, you have the power to unplug or not unplug depending on what works best for you, and you are in control of your career satisfaction.

If your organization is considering launching technology initiatives that empower employees to pursue alternative work options, check our blog How to Launch a People-First Digital Transformation.