Remote work makes it easier than ever to take a work holiday—you can travel to a new location, log in during the day, and essentially leave without using vacation days. But many people come back from these “breaks” even more burnt out than when they left.
About 61% of Americans who took work leave last year did not consider it a “real” leave, according to Expedia’s latest study on leave deprivation, which surveyed 14,500 working adults in 16 countries. What’s more, 72% of people who worked off their vacation reported feeling more exhausted than ever.
Melanie Fish, head of global public relations for Expedia Group Brands, knows this from her own experience. During the pandemic, she tried to take a working vacation from a rented house in the woods, “and it was very hard for me to hear my family getting ready for the hike while I was trying to answer an email,” she says. “It taught me that not every trend is good.”
Fish admits it takes “age and experience” to feel comfortable taking a week off and going completely offline. But she also sees it as a necessary management skill and models it for her employees: “As a leader, you don’t do your job if your team can’t get along without you for a couple of days.”
Expedia Group employees receive 15 to 25 paid days off and up to $1,500 a year for travel and wellness. They also get access to special hotel and travel discounts through their platforms.
Fish admits that skipping a long vacation can backfire, like when she recently returned from a week-long trip to a Florida beach to find 3,000 unread emails. Here she shares her secret to a smooth transition from vacation mode to work mode, as well as what she learned from her European colleagues and the cruel advice she gave herself at 25 to keep her ego in check.
Her secret to transitioning from vacation to work: I like to keep it a secret that I’m back for as long as possible. I set my absence from work a little longer than it really is, and I don’t activate Slack until I know what’s happened in the last week. It doesn’t always work. But just because I get back to the office at 8am on a Monday after a couple of days off doesn’t mean people need me at 8am on a Monday.
So go ahead, block this calendar for a couple of hours. Leave this out of office message enabled. Keep Slack inactive. Give yourself the opportunity to enter at a reasonable pace.
How to respond to a leader who does not observe time off: I’ve had great bosses who I’ve been very clear with: “I’m taking a vacation, I won’t be checking email, here’s who to contact, or please text me if you really need me” – and they respected that.
I once had a boss who looked at me incredulously and said, “Well, I’ve just never heard of a person at your job who wasn’t emailing all the time, even on vacation.” At this point, I had to take a deep breath, straighten up and say, “If…