Why and How to Take Tech-Free Time Off Work
Statistically speaking, people aren’t great at disconnecting. Whether that means taking a break from smartphones, social media and general internet use, or taking paid time off work, the numbers suggest most Americans are reluctant at best. And yet, taking time for yourself, away from tech or away from work, is beneficial for your physical and emotional health.
Complicating matters is the fact that taking time off work and time away from screens are not mutually exclusive. For one, 61 percent of people report doing work on vacation and moreover, some people may find curling up with a new show on their screen to be the ideal relaxation break from work. Which is to say, you can take a vacation during which you don’t disconnect, but you can also make disconnecting part of your work-life balance. Here’s why you should.
You Could Use a Break
Scientific study of the effects of the internet, screen time and social media is still a relatively new field. However, what is being reported, particularly when combined with research into work habits, is not great: Poor concentration, sleep disorders and even eye irritation and poor posture are associated with being plugged-in.
Tech-free vacations, on the other hand, have been shown to reduce unnecessary stress, improve concentration and creativity, increase mental clarity and generally improve the main pillars of your health.
One theory for this is a result of an excess of stimuli from constant connectivity that makes it harder to sustain attention and creates an environment in your brain similar to that caused by attention deficit disorder (ADHD).
The fact that you may be spending these hours of constant connectivity on work does not help matters either. Working or communicating about work after hours not only increases the amount of time you’re experiencing work-related stress, it also cuts into valuable recovery time from stress and mental exertion.
Tips to Pull the Trigger on Time Off
The reality is that you are unlikely to cut tech or work out of your life entirely, which is what makes occasional breaks – time off – all the more important.
Many workers report feeling overwhelmed and there is no good time to get away. Certain industries do have a busy season and you’ll know best if a crucial time to be in the office is on your horizon. However, when it comes to the day-to-day business, there will never be a perfect time, so at some point you need to pick your dates and plan accordingly. Plus, there’s evidence to suggest employees who take vacation time are in fact more productive, perform better and feel better about their jobs.
Lest you experience stress about taking time off, planning goes a long way. Let your supervisors and coworkers know in advance and take the time to set up appropriate coverage. Even before you leave, discuss boundaries with your team and define what is considered a must-contact or must-respond emergency. Then, take your team at their word: if they say they’re covering for you, believe them and avoid constantly checking emails or monitoring from afar. You’re on vacation now – enjoy it.
Some people may find it beneficial to pick a destination that forces their hand. In other words, a city or locale that is decidedly un-friendly to tech time, whether that means infrequent internet access, poor reception or simply a foreign country where mobile carrier rates curtail your habits.
Then, leave behind what you can. Don’t pack the tech (laptops, tablets) that are not necessary for your trip or safety but may tempt you to dive into your inbox.
Lastly, it never hurts to get into good habits before you take a vacation. From a work perspective, maybe that means defining what calls for an after-hours response during a normal week. As for your other tech and screen time, some people find it beneficial to set certain hours when they don’t use their devices or go on social and tech cleanses, where they cut out certain habits for an extended period of time.
Neither the internet nor your work is going anywhere anytime soon, and more often than not, both those things should be overwhelmingly positive additions to your life. Which is all the more reason to take a break every once and while, not only can you reset and refresh with self-care, you can return with new enthusiasm for what’s at your fingertips.