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10 tips for a stress-free vacation from the office

ashley 100Ottawa researchers have tips for people who find themselves needing a vacation from their vacation.


Contrary to popular belief, research has consistently shown that vacations do not actually help to reduce work-related stress all that much. While we generally show reduced stress levels while on vacation, stress goes right back up to normal levels when we return to work.

While vacations allow us to spend valuable time with our families and give us the opportunity to accomplish personal goals that we couldn’t achieve if we worked every week of the year, two of the biggest reasons why we don’t experience long-term stress-relief from vacations are because we constantly worry about work when we’re away and because we experience an increase in workload as soon as we return to work. Managing these two issues can go a long way in helping us feel more comfortable taking time off and getting more “bang for their buck” from our vacations.

So here are ten useful tips:

(1) Accept that your workplace will function just fine without you. We often feel that only we can do our work and that if we’re absent dire things could happen.

(2) Email your boss, colleagues and clients about your pending absence as soon as you know when you’ll be away, so that they have a record of the dates and enter your vacation time in any shared calendars. Send a follow up reminder a week or two before you leave to explain what you’ll be able to work on prior to your vacation. This will reduce the likelihood of you getting new projects or sudden requests.

(3) Good time management leading up to your vacation can go a long way in helping you feel more comfortable while away. Start planning your daily to-do list to take into account your pending absence as soon as possible.

(4) Be honest with yourself and with your boss, coworkers and clients regarding how reachable you will be while you are away. It’s always best to avoid checking emails and answering work phones completely while you are on vacation, but depending on your job (and personality) that isn’t always possible. To strike a balance between checking messages and not getting sucked into doing too much work, set ground rules (e.g. “I will check my emails only once every other day at 4 in the afternoon”) and stick to them. Have a family member or friend keep your laptop, tablet or phone during the times you aren’t supposed to be using them. If you let your work colleagues know how often you will be checking your messages you’ll be less worried about whether there is someone waiting for a reply.

(5) Coordinate your vacation time with your colleagues and clients. This might include taking time off at the same time, or not overlapping vacation time, depending on the nature of your job.

(6) Find a trustworthy colleague who can be your go-to person and handle your workload while you’re away. Ensure that your go-to person is well-versed in any potential issues that might arise in your absence and organize the materials or files he or she might need to address these potential issues. Tell your colleagues and clients who your go-to person is and what sort of tasks he or she will be able to help them with. Remember that you will also likely have to cover for your colleague in his or her absence. Consider this when you plan your vacation time.

(7) Don’t take any work files or materials with you on vacation.

(8) Don’t put off tasks until your return. Workload generally increases in the days and weeks leading up to a vacation and it can be tempting to move tasks to your post-vacation to-do list. But many of us don’t realize just how much we’ll have to do on our return.

(9) Be mentally and logistically prepared for your workload upon your return. Organize your tasks based upon what is most important to get done.

(10) Consider going on multiple short trips throughout the summer. Some research has shown that short trips can actually have a more long-term beneficial impact on employee health than week-long vacations, because it is usually easier to completely disconnect from work if you’re only going to be absent for a short period of time.

Finally, you’re likely to be more satisfied with your vacation if you avoid thinking about it solely as a means to relieve stress and avoid work. Instead, it’s important to acknowledge the other personal goals your vacation will help you accomplish, whatever they might be: reconnecting with nature for a bit, spending time with the kids, having an opportunity to be a tourist in your own city … or finally knocking the Bay of Fundy off your bucket list. 

*Jane O’Reilly is an Assistant Professor in the area of organizational behaviour and human resource management at Telfer School of Management.




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