Do You Have Nomophobia?  Here’s How to Unplug and Enjoy Your Vacation

Before smartphones and email, Americans had no trouble enjoying holidays in peace.  Once gone, employees were “out of sight, out of mind.”  Times certainly have changed!  Today, many professionals are plagued with “nomophobia,” the fear of not having a mobile phone, so an unplugged vacation is unthinkable.  Between “just one more call” and “a quick email and I’m done,” vacation days fly by with half your brain still stuck behind your desk.   

Sometimes it’s not the job but your company that creates vacation anxiety.  For example, when your boss isn’t pinging you hourly, you might think, am I missing critical decision-making?  Will my company think me less committed?  Will my vacation disrupt chances for that promotion?  

Fortunately, more employers than ever are recognizing the struggles people have using their PTO.  They know that vacation is essential to a productive and healthy workforce.  The positive effects of PTO, increased motivation, mood, and productivity, far outweigh the costs of chronically stressed employees with lower performance and higher sick leave rates.  

However, PTO benefits are fleeting if workers don’t do their part and leave the office.  So, stop feeling guilty for vacationing, especially if you are a millennial!  Here are some steps to help you unplug on your well-deserved vacation.

  1. Plan for a carefree departure.  If you don’t begin to clear projects until the day before you leave, work will be a stowaway wherever you go.  Weeks prior, take the time to close, pause, or assign clients and tasks to someone you can trust to cover you while you are gone.  Let them know you will return the favor.  Sharing tasks and clearing your desk means the workload will be less overwhelming when you return. 
  2. Set expectations with your colleagues.  Let your boss know the state of your workflow and who you have assigned to handle critical situations when they arise.  Set up an autoreply on your email two weeks before you leave to remind colleagues and clients to reach you before your planned departure.  Let people know you will be “off the grid” during your break, but if there is a real emergency, your backup knows how to reach you.  Resist the urge to feel indispensable; your work will be there when you return.  
  3. Have a real adventure and go wireless!  Yes, you really can!  It might feel entirely out of your comfort zone but think of vacationing disconnected as a detox for you and any family members traveling with you.  

Did you know that the average adult checks a smartphone 96 times daily?  And that 39% of kids wish their parents spent less time on their phones (and probably more time with them)?  Family vacations are the perfect excuse to unplug and begin to decouple from the smartphone dependency impacting so many people’s mental health.

If traveling without a cell or laptop would start a riot, there are many options for vacationers who wish to avoid their tech.  Plan an off-grid escape like backpacking or camping.  Rent a remote beach house, book a cruise, and don’t buy the internet plan.  Travel internationally but take only one smartphone for navigation and emergencies.  If you must connect, join early risers at an internet café for a brief chat with the office before starting the day’s adventures.  Going phone-free on vacation might seem aspirational, but one family who traveled without reported challenges, yes, but ultimately more social contact, creativity, engagement, better family time, and greater self-awareness.  

Now realistically, CEOs, senior executives, and critical staff may not be able to disconnect while on vacation entirely.  However, consider that a digital detox, even briefly, has life-changing effects behaviorally and neurologically.  Researchers and neuroscientists have seen improvements in memory, sleep, human interaction and bonding, and even posture.  Less screen time also helps leaders recommit to healthy habits like exercise, mindfulness, and relationship building, destressing activities so crucial to effective leadership.  Just remember, if you hire good people, they’ll have your back so you can unplug, rest, and recharge without worry.

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