Travel Advice: How to Unplug for a Vacation and Stay Unplugged

Are you prepared to truly leave work behind on your next vacation? One of the indirect consequences of greater connectivity in business is that it's especially challenging for managers to unplug from the day-to-day activities of the office during their time off.

It hasn't stopped executives from trying, though. A 2012 Robert Half Management Resources survey found 51 percent of chief financial officers do not check in during vacation. That number is nearly twice as much as the response to the same survey conducted just two years earlier. Whether it's because the economy is in better shape compared to previous years or because professionals are giving higher priority to their mental well-being, managers appear more willing to detach themselves from the daily grind for an extended period of time. 

But before you shut down your computer during your next vacation, you need to make sure your staff members are prepared to work effectively in your absence.

Choose the right timing

Don't plan to disconnect completely from work if your company is undergoing a major transition period. Problems can pop up at any moment during these volatile shifts, and it's ultimately more productive for both the business and your own mental health to avoid taking a vacation before things have been ironed out.

At the same time, make sure your trip falls during a period when plenty of other staff members will be around to take care of business. Plan ahead by looking at your team's calendars to choose a time that makes sense.

Assign someone to be in charge

You'll have more peace of mind if you have someone in the office you trust to lead the team while you're gone. Not only will this person be in charge of fulfilling day-to-day responsibilities, but he or she will also be the one to debrief you on everything you missed once you return.

This can be a helpful part of the succession planning process. Your protégé can gain a firsthand look at what life in your shoes is like. When you return to the office, talk to him or her about how things went, challenges that arose and how he or she handled them.

Touch base on all ongoing projects before you leave

Similarly, your vacation will run much more smoothly if you reach out to all of your colleagues before leaving. Let them know how long you'll be gone, and give them the opportunity to ask questions while you're still in the office. While it's impossible to anticipate every problem, touching base will at least allow staff members to know they don't need to panic if something comes up while you're out of the office.

Let technology work for you

Disconnecting from the office is pointless if you spend the entire vacation dreading the number of emails you expect to return to on your first day back. However, you can utilize various tools to return to the office as easily as possible. Schedule out-of-office auto replies so people know not to include you in unnecessary email chains. You can also set up temporary email filters to ensure you come back to only the most important messages.

Truly leaving work behind for a vacation is important to avoid burnout as a manager. While it may appear that your presence is mandatory every day, this doesn't have to be the case. It's up to you to train your staff members in such a way that you trust their ability to do just fine without you for a few days — or weeks.

What steps do you take to prepare for vacation? Do you ever truly to unplug from the office? Leave a comment below.