As Labor Day weekend approaches, the morning traffic is a little less chaotic and the office cubicles are a little quieter, as swarms of hard-working employees take a rightful break from their 9-5 to spend a long weekend or nice vacation filled with friends, family, and relaxation.  However, that last little part, relaxation, can be difficult for some who feel a slight separation anxiety when they are not plugging away at their job.  In our society, many people associate their jobs and work ethic with success, happiness, and solid values and morals; work is simply something you should be doing, for yourself and for your family.   There is nothing wrong with this mentality, but when taken to the extreme, taking a break from work can invoke guilt and regret into even the most hard-working and most deserving individuals.

However, in reality, breaks from work-related activities to give your mind a breather and your loved ones attention and affection is really a necessity.  So why are so many people feeling guilty about a necessity that they have justly earned?  Maybe it is that anxiety that comes with being separated from something you value so much; it is easy to worry about what will happen to it while you are gone.  But guess what?  Your job will still be there when you come back.  Your cubicle won’t crumble, or and your laptop won’t dissolve.  In fact, you may even return from your vacation rejuvenated and more productive than ever.

The key to a truly relaxing and guilt-free vacation is to take ample time to prepare for your break, so when you leave work, you can actually leave work.  You don’t have to spend time at your family barbeque worrying about if an invoice was paid, or listen to waves splashing on a sandy beach while thinking about a spreadsheet you need to finish.  Putting in a little extra work before your vacation will allow you to fully relax and enjoy the time you have earned.

Below are some tips from The Job Bored blog on how to give ample preparation for your vacation from work.  Remember, you deserve it!

  1. Decide now if you’re going to do any work while you’re on vacation. Careerbuilder says 1 in 4 workers plan to do some work while on vacation. This is an all or nothing decision.  Doing things halfway doesn’t work out well. If you want to make a clean break, you should dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s now. If you’re going to be available in certain situations, you have to make sure your lines of communication are open. Set the table now so there is no confusion.
  2. If you ARE going to be in touch (even if just to monitor things) while away, make sure to check the lay of the land ahead of time. Don’t blindly assume the lodge or Grandma Sarah’s house will have internet access… or even cell phone coverage! Inquire ahead of time if you need specific tools available.
  3. Whatever your ultimate decision, make sure the boundaries you settle on are widely known and understood. Under what threat of emergency are you willing to be contacted, and at what number?
  4. Try to bring all open projects to a conclusion. This makes it easier for your co-workers (they’re not waiting on your return to move things forward) and it makes things easier for you. You’ll be much happier to come back to a clean slate.
  5. To that end, clean your desk. Everything must go! Answer all outstanding voicemails. Clear out your email inbox. If you make a clean break, it will be easier to hit the ground running when you come back: anything on your plate when you return will be new business because you closed all old business out before you left.
  6. Right now, before you leave, make a to-do list of things you expect you’ll need to tackle when you get back. Don’t rely on your memory after a week at the beach to remember about that important lunch appointment the Tuesday after you get back.
  7. Set your email out of office autoreplies. .
  8. If someone is covering for you, make sure all of your usual contacts know who this person is and how they can be contacted.
  9. If someone is covering for you, meet with them and set up a plan. Eliminate any chance of surprise. Make clear what they can expect and what you’ll expect when you get back.
  10. Don’t feel guilty. No matter what the modern work ethos is, everyone deserves a vacation now and again. Even you.