A travel professional’s “secret” for getting into work mode after a long vacation

Remote working makes working holidays easier than ever – you can go somewhere new, log on during the day, and essentially get away from it all without having to use up your PTO days. But many people come back from these “breaks” even more exhausted than when they left.

According to Expedia’s latest Vacation Deprivation Study of 14,500 working adults in 16 countries, some 61% of Americans who took a working vacation last year didn’t consider it a “real” vacation. Additionally, 72% of people who worked while on vacation said they felt more exhausted than ever.

Melanie Fish, global head of public relations for Expedia Group Brands, knows this from experience. During the pandemic, she tried to take a working vacation in a rental house in the woods, “and it was actually stressful for me to hear my family getting ready for a hike while I was trying to respond to an email,” she said. “It taught me that not all trends are good.”

Fish acknowledges that it takes “age and experience” to feel comfortable taking a week off and going completely off the grid. But she also sees it as a necessary management skill and makes it a role model for her employees: “As a leader, you’re not doing your job if your team can’t do without you for a few days.”

Expedia Group employees get 15 to 25 paid days off and up to $1,500 in travel and wellness reimbursements per year. They also have access to special hotel and travel discounts through their platforms.

Fish admits opting out for long vacations can come back to bite her, like when she recently returned from a week-long trip to the beach in Florida to 3,000 unread emails. Here, she shares her secret to a smooth transition from holiday mode to work mode, as well as what she learned from her European colleagues and the brutal advice she would give to herself as a 25-year-old to control her ego.

His secret to switching from vacation mode to work mode: I like to keep it a secret that I’m back for as long as possible. I set my out of the office for a bit longer than I actually am, and I don’t set Slack to active until I figure out what happened last week. It doesn’t always work. But just because I’m back in the office at 8 a.m. Monday after a few days off doesn’t mean people need me at 8 a.m. Monday.

So go ahead and block off that calendar for a few hours. Keep that out of office message enabled. Keep Slack idle. Give yourself a chance to enter at a reasonable pace.

How to respond to a manager who does not respect time off: I’ve had amazing bosses I’m super clear with – “I’m taking this time off, I won’t be checking emails, here’s who to contact, or please text me if you really need of me” – and they respected that.

I once had a boss who looked at me in disbelief and said, “Well, I’ve never heard of a person in your work who wasn’t constantly in touch with his e-mails, even during the holidays.” At that point, I had to take a deep breath, stand up straight, and say, “If you need something different, please specify and we can talk about it.” But I don’t constantly check my email when I’m online. personal leave. »

The obligation rests with the leaders of the company to adopt good behavior, and not only to encourage people to take their free time, but not to punish them for it.

How to decrease your workload to make room for free time: When you take time off from work, look at the meetings that have been scheduled for this Monday and think, “Should I reschedule this meeting for Tuesday or can we leave it for this week?” What good are vacations if they double the workload you have to do the next day?

What she learned from her European colleagues: It helps to have a team in Europe. They don’t mess with holidays, and that’s inspiring. My European colleagues don’t feel the need to apologize for the time they’re taking — and they shouldn’t. They have holidays. Summer turns into an extremely slow time. And because it’s universal in the culture, not just within a company, it normalizes the need for time off instead of making it a reason to be embarrassed not to work.

What she would say to herself at 25 about furlough: I would say to my 25-year-old self, “You’re not so important that your workplace can’t be without you for a few days.” I would say that to myself at 25. I’m not going to tell the 25-year-olds on my team. I hope I’m modeling this behavior so it doesn’t need to be said.

The ability to turn it off completely during vacations came with age and experience. There was a time when I felt the need to be constantly connected to what was happening at work. And looking back, I’m not so sure it was my workplace expectation as much as it was my own ego that I thought they just couldn’t get away with while I took three days off. And that’s just silly.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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