But it’s important to remember that simply taking time off does not guarantee a vacation will be successful. To fully reap the benefits, there are a few things workers should do before, during and after their vacations, said Bill Watts, employee relations manager for SH Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Gulf Shores, Ala.-based Meyer Vacation Rentals.
Watts is responsible for counseling and assisting employees with work-related or personal concerns and otherwise providing employee support as needed. His services are one of the many ways Meyer parent company SH Enterprises Inc., recently voted one of the Best Companies to Work for in Alabama in 2017, works to help employees stay happy, healthy and productive.
“It’s very important not to let work cause stress in our personal and family lives—not just for ourselves but also for our families. When someone gives everything to their job, something is left out. And, most of the time, it’s our families,” Watts said.
Watts entered the ministry as a pastor in 1976 but also held a job in the corporate world and attended college at the same time. As a minister, he provided support to members of his congregation while also managing his own busy work and family life.
As he worked, attended school and raised a family, retired from the ministry and one corporate career, and embarked on a completely new career at SH Enterprises in 2011, Watts said he learned some very important lessons about work-life balance that he passes on to his SH Enterprises colleagues today.
“For 37 years, I was a pastor of a church and almost all of that time worked a secular job. Because of that, many times, when my children were involved in activities, I did not get to spend the time with them that they would have liked for me to,” he said. “I didn’t realize until they were adults that they often felt shortchanged. They had resentment I didn’t understand until they were adults. It’s very important to pay attention to the needs of our families. And one of those needs is for our time.”
Watts said taking time to care for our own loved ones—and ourselves — is vital to finding happiness at work.
“Simply put, we are not going to be happy or successful in our work lives if our home lives are not happy. It is especially important to plan time to be with family, not just spend time with them when you have a few minutes.”
To make the most of time off the job, there are five things Watts suggested everyone do before, during and after a vacation.
1. Tie Up Loose Ends & CommunicateIf you know you’re going to be away a month from now, try to leave as few loose ends as possible, Watts suggested. “Also, communicate to your colleagues that you are going to be away on vacation and that you will not be as accessible as you normally would be. Make them aware you won’t be checking emails every time you hear a ding or that you’ll only look at emails once or twice a day. At the same time, if there is a real emergency—if someone needs something right then—tell them they should call you and that if you don’t answer, you will call them back. This creates peace of mind for you and instills confidence and trust in your team.”
2. Lean On Your TeamIt takes discipline to disconnect from regular work duties during vacation. However, giving direction to teammates about handling important tasks that may come up in your absence can help relieve pressure and help you focus your attention on the family.
“Empower whoever is going to be in charge in your absence to make decisions within certain parameters. Let them know that they can make whatever decision is needed. Not only will this help you vacation with greater confidence, but it will also help your teammates grow and develop in their own jobs. While you’re away, you don’t need to worry about what’s not getting done. Enjoy your family. If there’s something that the person you’ve empowered can’t manage, realize that you can deal with it when you get back. There’s likely nothing you could do while you are out anyway.”
3. Limit Work Interruptions“Remember that time away means time away. I urge people here all the time when we talk about stress and planning for vacation to realize that a true vacation can’t really happen if they still answer all their calls or emails. Many of our team members are in the position of taking calls from guests or vacation rental owners and feel like they can’t really get away because they must always be available to meet others’ needs.”
Watts advised that if workers simply must review emails while on vacation, they should only respond to those that simply cannot wait or be rerouted to a colleague to handle.
4. Prioritize Your Work Upon Your ReturnWatts said when he plans for a vacation, he organizes and completes important tasks in advance. However, he is prepared for there to be numerous tasks to manage upon his return.
Rather than allowing himself to become overwhelmed when he returns to work, he prioritizes emails and tasks by deciding which ones must be handled immediately and which ones can wait until the next day or even the day after that.
“Prioritizing is a way to organize your time and energies or efforts to help you manage the workload when you return,” Watts said.
5. Kick The FearWatts said many people avoid taking time off from work because they fear their employer will find they can get along without them or their role in the company. This fear is unfounded, he cautioned.
“You shouldn’t worry that just because a team member can cover your duties for a few days, the managers are going to think they can get along without your position,” Watts said. “You must realize and accept your value and your position’s value to the company and understand that just because a co-worker can double up for a short time does not mean they can do it for an extended period of time.”
When such thoughts pop up in your mind during a vacation, Watts had this advice: “Turn to your family or return what you were doing. Refocus on enjoying the moment.”
Watts reinforced the need for workers to plan and enjoy productive vacations. “We are mentally, emotionally and physically healthier when we enjoy planned time away from work. Through a bit of self-management, we can vacation with confidence and return to work refreshed and more productive.”