Disconnect While on Vacation – Seven Corporate Commandments to Follow
“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” - Robert Orben
This year when my father-in-law (Papa) planned the family vacation to Coorg and Masainagudi Forests (South India), we were excited to visit some beautiful locations and spend time together as a family. After all, who wouldn’t savor the sweet taste of togetherness with family, minus any stressful interventions? But little do we realize how we’ve become slaves to seemingly harmless habits like checking emails and receiving calls. To the utter disappointment of my mother-in-law (Maa) and kids, 3 out of 7 hours from Bangalore to Coorg were spent on our respective mobile phones (husband, father-in-law and yours truly).
We finally reached Coorg, tired and exhausted. As we took our first sip of hot tea, a chilling realization sent shivers down our spines. THERE WAS NO NETWORK! We panicked. My Papa immediately confronted the estate manager, whose polite reply did not resonate well with us. “Sir, this place is quite far from the city and therefore, doesn’t receive signal. In any case, Sir, you have come to enjoy time with your family and are on a vacation – isn’t it good that you will be able to dedicate all of your time to them?” He also informed us that there would be no signal in Masainagudi Forest either.
Thus began our tryst with a gadget-free family vacation. Since we were oblivious to what was happening in our respective offices and there was no pressure to return emails, we were completely stress-free. I have to admit that this vacation was the best vacation ever – with no distractions, we were simply enjoying the beautiful moments with family.
That’s when I realized: a smartphone is smart, but it is the user who can be foolish at times. Foolish enough to believe that having a gadget in your pocket gives you the feeling of being indispensible and takes away your well-earned family time. Smartphones are doing their job, but we – the intelligent Homo sapien – have made ourselves slaves to technology. The addictive urge of checking email or social networks every other hour is like an urge to smoke – call it ‘self-importance nicotine.’
“Indispensability is a state of mind; don’t make it a state of being.” – Anonymous
These holidays in their true-sense were the most enjoyable stress-free break; we gave 100% of our time to each other. But a thought crossed my mind later – in today’s world, when the expectation is to remain connected (especially if you are client-facing), how can one manage to be un-approachable for a week?
And so, I’ve come up with the following “Corporate Vacation Commandments” to help.
- Stop thinking that you are indispensible.
- Give importance to your family. In today’s fast-paced world we spend enough time away from our families even while at home – therefore vacation time is for family only.
- Plan your holidays in advance and give everyone (clients, team) adequate heads-up.
- Ensure no important event is coming up around your planned holidays.
- Before the holidays, sit with your teams and set desired deliverables during the time you are on leave.
- Nominate your No. 2 in the team as the person in-charge for that period. If there is a crisis or an impromptu client demand, this individual will manage it. In effect, you are removing the reliance (and pressure) on you and giving him/her the confidence that ‘they can do-it.’ This is also an opportunity for this person to learn and develop new skills in the absence of a manager, which will come in handy later.
- Always remember you have a manager who will fill in for you in case there is a critical situation. In essence strongly recommend “upward delegation” when necessary while you are on leave.
We talk about work-life balance and make a lot of noise around it – but so many of us never really do anything about it! Vacation is the perfect opportunity to give your time to your family and friends and make up for all those late nights and stress-related tantrums. Make use of it effectively. This is not to say ignore the company – but balance it out!
After this wonderful experience, my husband and I made a commitment that while on vacation we will not spend more than an hour on our mobiles and even that will alternate. And yes, we honored this commitment on our way home after the vacation, too. Try it for yourself!