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Staycation, all I ever wanted

Like many of you, I’ve been working from home during the pandemic. The only time I’ve left my house in over three months is to get food and exercise. I’ve canceled three weeks of planned vacations. I’m not alone. People across the company aren’t taking a vacation, and that’s bad for everyone. Besides causing burnout and low morale, skipping vacation also cuts back on the reflection and fresh perspective that leads to innovative breakthroughs. We often need to step away in order to step forward.

But how do you step away when doing so might get you infected or cause you to infect others? Even if you wanted to risk leaving your home, much of the world is shut down or blocked off. The clear answer is vacationing at home—the ultimate staycation. For many of us, that doesn’t sound like much of a break, which is probably why people aren’t taking their vacation.

I’m sick and tired of being at home. I need a break from the routine. Plus, work is now at home. How am I supposed to be on vacation if I live at work? Even if I avoid checking online, which is impossible because I’m always on my laptop and phone, how do I reflect and get a fresh perspective when I’m stuck in my usual home routine? Great questions that have slightly radical answers. Want to step away? Read on.

The secret of my success

Many people will still choose to take a safe vacation away from home by wearing masks and following physical distancing rules at campgrounds and other open locations. However, if none of those options appeal to you or you simply don’t feel safe, you can still achieve the ultimate staycation at home by following a few guidelines.

  • Prepare to be off the grid. To disconnect peacefully from work for the recommended 8+ days, you should delegate your work and ensure a smooth return.
  • Leave work behind. You’re not leaving your home, but you can still leave your work by physically and digitally shelving it.
  • Pursue something new. Just like a regular vacation, you want to step away from the ordinary and gain new experiences you’ll talk about for years to come.

These ideas might seem a bit idealistic. Let’s talk about pragmatic steps to achieve them.

Eric Aside

Need to take extra time off? Read Some time away.

Are you ready?

You should always delegate your work to co-workers before you leave on vacation, including swapping on-call times. (Avoid being on call the week you return, since you may be unaware of recent changes.) Often people use the Exchange Out-of-Office Feature (aka OOF, though that could mean out-of-facility) to send a message while they’re gone that lists contacts for each area they own. However, many folks still check online messages during vacation.

For the ultimate staycation, you need to disconnect from work. That means editing your OOF message to say that you’ll be completely offline. You’ll also want to update passwords, complete expense reports and access requests, and clear out any other items that might expire while you’re away. Finally, order anything you need for staycation projects in advance so you’re ready to get started.

Going dark

Once your vacation starts, you need to transform your workplace back into a home. It probably took effort to set up your workstation, and you’ll need to go back to it later, so there’s no need to dismantle it now—just disable it.

  • If you have a separate computer for work, install any pending updates, power it down, and consider covering your entire work area with a blanket. You’re on vacation.
  • If you’ve been using your personal computer for work, remove your work account—you can easily add it back at the end of your vacation. If that scares you too much, create a new email profile that doesn’t contain your work account. You’ll also want to turn off notifications, sign out, or uninstall all work apps, like Teams. (Keep a list to re-enable them later.)
  • Remove your work account from your phone. No work email for you! People can still call or text you if there’s a true emergency. Phone authentication will still function properly, so it’s easy to add back your work account later.

Now you can’t work, and no one can tell you to work. I’m feeling more relaxed already.

I’ve got a little project

Just because you’re not working doesn’t mean you’re vacationing. Vacations are about having new experiences that take your mind off day-to-day tedium while gaining a fresh perspective and lasting memories.

Some people can just relax their minds and escape through meditation, peaceful walks, and everyday activities. That’s fantastic if you can do it. For those of us who need a more tangible break from the everyday, consider doing a project. If you’ve got family and friends living with you, choose a project that involves them.

  • You can learn a new skill, language, or hobby, like playing an instrument or honing a craft. Family and housemates can join you to create large objects, original compositions, or viral videos. This is fun, engaging, and memorable.
  • You can complete a hackathon or maker project. Family and housemates can get involved in different aspects. This is a great way to share your passions and perhaps instill them in others.
  • You can volunteer for a meaningful cause. Family and housemates can join you to make a difference in your community, learn how to advocate and become involved, and share in a purpose beyond themselves.

Some projects may take just a few days and some a few weeks. Have two or three in mind in case you want variety or need to fill extra time. Remember to order anything you need in advance. Regardless of what you choose, you have the makings of a memorable and meaningful vacation without ever leaving your home.

Give me a break

We’re living through difficult times. Vacations are as important as ever. If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable leaving your home, you can and should still have a memorable, relaxing, and reinvigorating staycation at home.

Prepare to leave work for 8+ days by delegating your responsibilities, updating your OOF message, and completing password updates, access requests, expense reports, and anything else that might expire while you’re “away.” Then cut off your work access by removing accounts and apps, or at least disabling them, so you’ll avoid reminders and notifications. Dedicate your newfound bliss to learning new skills, completing new projects, and following new passions that you can share with housemates and create lasting memories.

Wait until your last day of vacation to reconnect your work account, re-enable your apps, and catch up on what you missed. Sure, it might not have been the vacation you originally imagined this summer, but it might be the vacation you need and one you cherish the most.

Eric Aside

For more on work-life balance, read Time enough and Better learn life balance.

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