I went on a five-day vacation with my family, and not once did I check my email or Webex – I am living proof that it can be done! And I think it’s crucial for us all to take this step, now more than ever.
Think about it; when you take Paid Time Off (PTO), how often do you take a few minutes here and there to “check-in” on work. Especially being in a role of Sales and Account Management where our ability to reply quickly feels like one of our superpowers. If we can just finish that last email or get out that final quote, then we can take a break…
A few weeks before our vacation to Disney World (yes, we took two toddlers to Disney World) I received an email from a colleague apologizing for her late reply as she was on PTO. I had already received her automatic reply the prior week and figured, “No problem, she’ll get back to me next week once she’s caught up.”
What struck me was that she felt the need to apologize for being on PTO – as well as my own habit of apologizing to customers and partners for the same thing. During this past year, it’s often felt like taking PTO may seem pointless. With most travel suspended, there was no destination where you could disconnect for a few days and recharge. The thought of a staycation could be met with disregard or even guilt because, “Why would I take time off, when my laptop is right there for me to work?”
I truly believe this has and is taking a major toll on our mental health. We are all sitting at home – which has now become our office and a classroom for many, and it can be hard to create separation from all of the daily demands. This leaves us in a state of always being “on” which can raise levels of stress and anxiety dramatically!
So, when my family and I took off for Disney for a few days, I made a vow to myself (and ultimately to my wife and kids) that I wasn’t going to spend even a minute scrolling through email. This allowed me to TRULY disconnect from work for five straight days!
After returning from our trip, I may have been exhausted from chasing a sugar-filled, nap-deprived 4-year-old and 22-month-old around the ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ – but as I saddled up to my desk, I felt recharged and was 100% ready to get to work. And guess what – my customers, partners and colleagues…they all survived without me for a few days!
I’m thankful that Cisco provides ample time for us to take off and truly encourages their employees to use that time to reconnect to oneself and family. They even sprinkle in extra days not attached to our PTO called “A Day for Me” for employees to collectively take a break. I’m also thankful that my direct manager is fully supportive of me taking time away as needed!
I wanted to share this in an effort to encourage and invite others to do the same. When you take time off, truly take that time off. It’s called Paid Time Off – not Paid Time On. It is important to prioritize your mental health and your relationships with friends and family – just as you prioritize sales goals, project deadlines, and emails with customers.
If you have PTO upcoming, do yourself a favor and commit to NOT working during that time. For some it’s as easy as making the commitment and sticking to it. For others, you might need to hide your Outlook, Webex, MBR, and other apps in a folder on your phone or remove them entirely.
If you do not have any upcoming PTO scheduled and you haven’t taken any personal time recently – do it now! Schedule it today. If you’re in a place where you can do some travel (safely), get yourself out of town. If you can’t, do things at home that would otherwise take a backseat to work – go for long family walks, sleep in, try to work out every day, or cook an elaborate meal!
If you can truly disconnect, you will find that you’ll return to work with a new energy and a clear mind, ready to take on the day!
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