It would seem that taking a vacation is easy to do, wouldn’t it?
But many people I know don’t truly take them. They stay connected. They put an out-of-office message that says “… but I’ll be checking email!” They even call into the “important” meetings.
This is not a vacation.
Fully disconnect. Turn the laptop off and put it in a closet for the week. Do not check email, slack, or any other system you can still access from your phone. Stop thinking about work. At all.
I go on a walk every morning. I do not listen to music, I just walk and let my mind drift. During the work week, my mind focuses on work, even at 4:30 AM walking in the dark looking at the stars. On the weekends, it thinks less about work, but it still goes there. When I take a vacation, I typically stop having work pop into my thoughts on Tuesday or Wednesday. It takes me 4 full days of disconnection to even stop thinking about work. Then I get 4-5 days to truly be disconnected from it and de-stress.
If you stay connected, you never truly de-stress. You never let go of the problems you are dealing with at work. And you aren’t truly replenishing your mental health.
Even on a practical note, if you never truly disconnect, then the business is not set up to run without you. This is unhealthy on the business side, as an irreplaceable employee is a risk – if they leave, the business has to adjust to a situation they’ve never seen before, and has lost the institutional knowledge that person carried. Being irreplaceable also means you are not promote-able. I’ve seen it in almost every job I’ve worked: Someone is so key to the business that even after promotion, they keep doing their old job. If you end up in that situation, you will have an even harder time taking a true vacation, you’ll be doing two jobs, and all sides of your life will suffer including the job performance that got you the promotion in the first place.
So do yourself and your employer a favor and truly disconnect a few times a year. It will decrease your stress, reduce business risk, and set up healthier career advancement.