Having made a career first in political campaigns and now in public affairs, I have never really been good at disconnecting during vacation. For the past three decades, I’ve jumped from one campaign to the next – whether it be for a candidate or an issue – rarely taking time to take a step back.
Even a decade or so ago we started to hear a change in the vernacular from “work-life balance” to “work-life integration”. Thankfully technology – especially mobile technology – has helped us be more available for work, while also being more present for “life”.
But that can’t replace a true vacation.
Now, as a mid-size, privately held public affairs firm, we have a lot of flexibility to support our employees and smart corporate growth. Over the last few years, we’ve seen that a lot of our employees and potential employees appreciate the ability to take time off.
We all know the benefits of vacation – improved mental and physical health, decreased burnout, and increased creativity, among others.
In August, I tried to put that principle into practice with a family trip to Alaska.
- I disconnected. (Well…pretty much. I only did a couple of calls, and only during off hours in Alaska. Baby steps!)
- I was intentionally present with my family and my surroundings.
- I talked about how excited I was about taking this trip among my colleagues, so they knew it was important to me to be able to leave work behind for a few days.
For me, the biggest benefit of disconnecting during vacation is maximizing family time. This trip was hard to schedule as our twins Claire and Colin head into their senior year at college, but that makes it all the more important for Mom and Dad as we know these trips will become much more difficult in the future. As a family, we have been blessed to be able to travel much of the country and to some special places around the globe. (For our twin’s high school graduation, we surprised them by going on a safari.)
But whether we are going to Africa, Alaska, or Alabama, we structure our trips the same way. We believe trips are lived in three equal buckets: planning the trip, taking the trip, and reliving the memories.
We all know that trips during COVID are especially difficult. Since many of us didn’t take any vacations during 2020 the need to recharge is more important than ever. Here are a couple steps that can make disconnecting easier:
- Communicate with your colleagues (and in my case, clients) early when you would be out.
- Make sure you have a plan to cover essential projects so you don’t feel the tug of work.
- Trust your team – we have great folks at DCI Group so it makes it easier when you know nothing will fall through the cracks.
That’s it – really not that difficult!
All it takes to get off the grid and come back to work with a clear head and new energy is a bit of prep and confidence in your colleagues.
This experience, and intentionality about it, was also helpful to me as a managing partner of the firm. We want to encourage our employees to take bold vacations and disconnect and come back refreshed and reenergized.
DCI Group is about to start its 25th year. I’ve been here for 22 of them. And I’ve seen the workplace culture shift dramatically over that time – and even more so as I think about my parents’ generation. (My parents were both public school teachers.)
With air travel more accessible and the internet allowing people to find new places to explore, individuals and families are shifting their priorities to be more experiential – and I think that’s great! It’s a big world, with a lot of fascinating and exciting things to see and do, and by engaging in these experiences we can intellectually and emotionally enrich ourselves and our loved ones.
If you have not been to Alaska – you need to go. This was our second trip there and it is just stunning in its size and landscape.
The fishing is not bad either – we came back with 50 pounds of halibut!