Last month, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Peru, Ecuador and Colombia for over three weeks. The trip was fantastic and had a little bit of everything as we learned about different cultures and experienced some adventure along the way. Some of that was planned and some of that was a bit unplanned.
What made the trip even better was that I made the decision to delete Outlook and Slack off of my phone for the duration of my vacation. I felt comfortable doing this because I work with such great teammates that I knew would be more than capable of handling whatever came up during my absence. When I told my manager and my colleagues that I was planning on doing this, no one raised an eyebrow.
The pressure to “always be connected” seems to be constant and now seems to be deep-rooted in our culture. In my experience, the chronic need to be always available seems to be inextricably tied to multi-tasking. This is something I have made a concerted effort to do less of over the past four years, admittedly with mixed success. I’ve made some improvements on my end, but it is still a work-in-progress.
The decision to eschew Outlook and Slack ended up being a good call not only because I came back from vacation more relaxed and refreshed than I can ever remember, but we ended up not having any connectivity of any kind for almost half of the trip. If people were expecting to reach me and were not able to, that could have been problematic. This ended up being the case for some of our fellow travelers in the Galápagos Islands, which was unfortunate for them.
In coming back to reality and being reconnected with the world, I did not find that much had changed over the time that we were away – personally and professionally. The news cycle seemed to repeat itself, but when I came back to work, pretty much every issue that had come across my desk while I was out was handled by my highly competent teammates. Ironically disconnecting made the reconnecting much easier and put me in a position to hit the ground running upon my return to work.
If you have never done something like this and would like to try, here are some tips on attempting this yourself:
- Set expectations with your colleagues at all levels of the organization with which you partner.
- Prepare a current status of items that are active and ensure that whomever is on point for coverage understands what needs to be completed during your absence.
- In your auto-reply email message, be clear about the dates you will be out of the office as well as who is covering for you. Ensure their contact information is included in the auto-reply.
- You have teammates for a reason. Let them know how much you trust them to make great decisions on your behalf.