What Unplugging Means to Steve

Recently, Steve and I were talking about our firm’s amazing sabbatical program. More on that in another blog post. This discussion revolved around what it means to unplug when you’re on vacation. Steve took some time off last summer (and plans to do so again this year) to attend his daughter’s horse show in Vermont. He fully enjoyed the time away, spending a majority of each day outdoors and supporting his daughter as she competed. Steve also found tremendous satisfaction in checking his emails and voice messages once a day, for about an hour, when he had time to himself in the morning.

“The ability to check in each day helped me enjoy the vacation more,” he noted. Initially, I was puzzled by this, but he explained that it allowed him to fully be present for the remainder of the day’s activities, whether enjoying a hike or watching the competition. It also allowed him to return from the time away without feeling the dread of a monstrous inbox waiting to devour him.

As much as we encourage our employees to take a complete break from the office on vacation, this conversation made me realize it is important to honor a person’s preferences when they are out of the office. So long as they are getting the energy they need from the break, an occasional check in might work for some employees. Talking about it ahead of time is important, as the feeling they must check in is quite different than a desire to check in. There are also implications for Exempt versus Nonexempt employees. Setting expectations, no matter the plan, is key.

Something to ponder the next time you or someone on your team takes a vacation.