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Home  > Article

You Should Really Take a Vacation (No, Really)

By Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire

Whoever coined the phrase "lazy days of summer" may have never worked in an office.

Just because the temperature is up outside, doesn't mean that the pace inside slows down. In fact, recent studies show that on average Americans are leaving nearly a week of their vacation days unused. And now with cell phones, Blackberries and WiFi everywhere, we're still linked to the office -- even if we do go away. The two main reasons we're forgoing some of our vacation time: stress and job security. It's a combination of being expected to keep in touch, as well as a desire to be wanted and to be in the know. But, now even savvy employers are saying it's important to get away and coming to believe that a rejuvenated employee is a more productive employee and they are tracking vacation closely to urge employee's to take off.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your getaway from the office.

Identify a back-up. With productivity demands on workers today, it's very realistic to assume that some of your work will have to be addressed while you're away. Identify a colleague who'll serve as your back-up - brief him or her on any key issues and tasks, leave organized files and notes. Offer to reciprocate when that person goes on vacation. This buddy system will lessen the pile-up of work and will lessen any disruption in work flow.

Change greetings. Make sure your voicemail greeting and out-of-office e-mail greeting clearly state that you're on vacation with no access to messages. Offer an alternate colleague's contact information for any time-sensitive issues. And be sure to reiterate that you will not respond until you return. That way you don't have to worry that a client or contact is left uncared for--or thinks that you're just not responding.

Give contact info to one person. Don't tell everyone where you're going or how to reach you! Let one key person know where to get you if something urgent arises that requires your attention. Really get away--which means they don't call you, and you don't call them.

Set limits on work. If you're someone who just has to stay in touch, either because your boss expects it or because you want to, there's nothing wrong with checking email here and there--as long as you're not ruining your family's vacation. But if your phone is constantly ringing and you're clearly preoccupied with work, it's not fair to everyone else. I spent my 10-day Christmas vacation working the whole time because I had a deadline to meet, and I didn't realize how it was affecting my family until we got home and my daughter told someone that mommy worked the whole time. I'll never make that mistake again. It wasn't much fun for me, and clearly it wasn't good for my family either. They put up with my work schedule all year round. The least I can do is give them 10 days of fairly undivided attention while on vacation. We all owe that to ourselves and the people we love.

So decide before you go -- I'll check in once a day or I'll work one hour a day -- and then stick to it. The office will no doubt survive without you and it'll reap the rewards of a well-rested workforce if everyone uses the time they're entitled to.

Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire and the Workplace Contributor on ABC's Good Morning America. Connect with her at

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