By Angela Lurie | Senior Regional Vice President, Robert Half

Finding a balance between professional responsibilities, personal responsibilities and self-care is an ongoing challenge for most women. This can be especially true during the summer, when kids are home from school, the weather is nice and vacation opportunities are aplenty.

A family vacation should be the perfect opportunity to recharge and refocus your priorities, but how often does that happen? Research from Robert Half has found that the majority of workers (56 percent) check in with the office while they’re supposed to be on vacation. While professionals in Minneapolis are among those most likely to fully disconnect, we aren’t immune to the pressure to keep up with our career even when we’re out of the office.

Perhaps more unsettling is that the trend is working against us. This summer, employees plan to take an average of nine days off, down from 10 in 2017, and younger employees typically feel a stronger urge to stay connected when they are away. Seven in 10 respondents ages 18-34 plan to check in with the office somehow while they’re on vacation. That’s a stark contrast to the 39 percent of respondents ages 55 and older.

Similar surveys uncover the same trend toward staying in touch when you’re supposed to be taking a break. In 2016, 59 percent of employees said they never check in while on vacation, but that number dropped to 47 percent in 2017 and 44 percent in 2018.

We all need time away from the office to recharge and boost productivity and creativity. Easier said than done? Try some of these tips to fully relax when you’re out of the office:

  • Plan ahead. As soon as you have your vacation on the calendar, make a list of what you need to take care of before you go and what potential issues could arise while you’re out. Having a plan in place will allow you to feel more confident things are under control in your absence. Plan meetings for the week you return (not back-to-back; you don’t want to undo the benefits of your vacation right away!) to catch up on what you missed.
  • Ask for help. Delegate tasks that can’t wait for your return, making sure to spread out the workload so as not to burn out one person. Take the time to share project updates, deadlines and access to important files before you leave.
  • Communicate. Let your boss, team and clients know when you will be away and that you will be unplugging. Asking if there’s anything you can do before you go can promote goodwill and possibly prevent problems from arising while you’re away.
  • Clarify exceptions. If you will be available for emergencies only, define what constitutes an emergency. If you can’t completely unplug, specify when you will be online, and stick to that schedule.
  • Let yourself unplug. Finally, give yourself permission to focus on your family, friends and/or self when your vacation begins. Remember that taking a break from work is important to doing your best work when you return. It’s just as important as responding to emails and meeting deadlines!

Taking vacation time is an important step to maintaining a strong work-life balance, but actually allowing yourself to enjoy your vacation is important too. Take advantage of opportunities to unwind, and allow yourself to do so without the guilt.

Angela Lurie is a Minneapolis-based senior regional vice president at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. For more information, visit http://www.roberthalf.com.