How to Leave Work Behind When You Hit the Beach

Prepare now so that you can unplug when you’re away.

If you’re looking forward to a vacation this summer, are you confident that you’ll be able to truly disconnect from work while you’re gone – or are you likely to find yourself answering work calls and emails from the beach?

Some advance planning – and a firm determination – can help you truly unplug on your vacation. Here’s how.

1. Enlist a gatekeeper. It’s impossible to unplug from work when they keep contacting you with emergencies or – worse – run-of-the-mill questions. So consider giving your vacation contact info to only one person, and charge them with acting as your gatekeeper. Obviously that person should be someone who you trust to use good judgment about when you truly do need to be contacted – and you should make sure they’re on the same page as you about what truly counts as an emergency. Then, let everyone else know that this person can reach you, and all contact while you’re away should be funneled through them. You can even tell your gatekeeper to only contact you by phone, which will allow you to truly get away from your email.

(If you have an assistant, that’s probably the obvious person to serve as your gatekeeper – but your manager or a sensible peer can often serve this function for you.)

2. Prepare your office to handle anything that might come up while you’re away. Enlist coworkers in helping cover pieces of your job that will need to be covered while you’re gone, document the key elements of your job that might need to be done by someone else, in a pinch, make sure you’re not the only one with key passwords, and inform your boss about those arrangements so that she knows what you’ve set up. (After all, all this work will be for naught if your boss doesn’t know about it and calls you with a question you’ve prepped someone else for.) Speaking of which…

3. If you’re a manager, train your team to function without you! As a manager, part of your job is ensuring that your team’s work will continue to get done even if you’re unavailable. Vacations can be a good test of that – and can help you spot holes where you need to do a better job of it. Any team should be able to stand on their own for a week or two without you. (And resist any temptation to check in to make sure you’re not needed. Trust that your staffers will contact you if it’s truly an emergency.)

4. Use an informative out-of-office message and outgoing voicemail message. If you don’t set these up at all, people won’t know that you’re on vacation and may try to call your cell phone or otherwise track you down. So be sure that your out-of-office messages are clear that you’re on vacation, what date you’ll be back, and who to contact meanwhile.

5. Remove your work email account from your phone. If your phone is set up to receive your work email, it’s going to too hard to avoid reading work-related emails while you’re away. Delete the account from your phone for now, and add it back after you return.

6. If all else fails, go somewhere where you won’t have cell or email reception, or at least not without high cost. This is good for extreme cases – people who just can’t manage to unplug while they’re away or people whose offices keep contacting them. Cruise ships and remote islands are good choices here.











Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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