Why You Should Take Time Off While Working From Home (and How To Enjoy It)
Like most things in 2020, the holiday season will be different this year.
Instead of traveling around the country for big family gatherings, like I usually do, I'll be taking time off to do the same things I've done since March: staying home, lounging in my sweats, and hopping in and out of Zoom chats.
Could I just work through the holidays? Sure. Will I? Nope. And you shouldn’t, either.
For most of us, our work lives and home lives have never been more conflated, and we’re working longer hours and taking fewer breaks as a result. But as more companies make the shift to permanent remote work, it’s time to seriously rethink our relationship with taking time off — and there’s no better time to start than the present.
If you're tempted to work through company holidays or not take any well-earned PTO while you work from home, here’s why you should reconsider.
Work-life balance in a fully remote world
Whether you're newly remote or have had your remote work routine down pre-pandemic, quarantine has completely upended all of our senses of work-life balance.
We've all done our best to adapt to both working and living from our homes — from seeing friends and family in video calls to trying to replicate gym workouts in our living rooms.
No matter your setup, though, it certainly feels like we’re always bouncing between screens, with little delineation between work hours and downtime.
Related reading: There’s No Going ‘Back To Normal’ — There’s Only Adapting To the New Paradigm — The Loom Blog
At a time when it feels like there’s not a whole lot else to do, we’re throwing ourselves into work. According to one study, we're working an average of three hours more per day during COVID-19, which means nearly half of our entire day is spent working. 😳
Clocking longer hours on any given workday is temporarily tolerable; sometimes it's simply unavoidable. But doing so consistently will bring down the quality of your work and eventually lead to burnout, which even working from the comforts of your own home can’t shield you from (especially when you consider we’re having as many meetings as we were before the pandemic).
The tl;dr? You owe it to yourself (and your work) to take time off. But what do you do when your options are limited?
Rethinking vacation time
We often treat vacation time (and even staycation time) as an opportunity to get away from our usual routines — but it's hard to plan a getaway when you literally cannot get away.
Over the summer, my manager asked me if I had any plans to take time off in the near future. Quarantine, coupled with the fact that I was pretty new to the job, felt like I needed to give a resounding "no."
But she insisted I plan for a week off in the near future, if only to take a break from work. So in early September, I did.
I mostly caught up on sleep, took long walks, and avoided screens minus a few hours of compulsory TV watching. While I wish I could have spent my vacation days lying on a beach somewhere, I got exactly what I needed out of my time off, and I returned to work feeling refreshed and productive having stepped away from it all for a few days.
It doesn’t matter what you do or where you go, but your time off should give you ample opportunity to recharge and reset — and it will help you produce better work once you return. In fact, taking 11 or more vacation days a year increases your likelihood of getting a raise by 30%.
It’s safe to say vacation isn’t antithetical to work — rather, it’s essential if you want to be more efficient and effective at work. So whether your ideal vacation means getting out of the house or staying in, whatever time off plan prioritizes your mental health and well-being is a winning one.
If, like me, you're staying put for the foreseeable future, here are some ways you can ensure you’re taking — and enjoying! — your time off.
3 steps to successfully taking time off while working from home
Easing into a vacation should be anything but stressful. Follow these three steps to ensure your time off is well spent.
1. Make a vacation plan, even if it’s a loose one.
Even if you don’t have many activities planned for your time off, create a checklist of things you want to do or accomplish so you don’t slip into filling your free time with work. No task is unworthy, as long as it’s not work-related. (Bonus points if you can avoid screen time as much as possible!)
Here are some Loommate-approved staycation activities:
Hike or bike nearby trails.
Complete the DIY home project you’ve been meaning to get around to “someday.”
Pick up a new hobby. Juggling? Macrame? Tarot? Needlepoint? Home brewing? The world’s your oyster.
Write and send letters or fun mail to loved ones (you can repurpose old catalogs, magazines, calendars, and other materials found around the house to make unique cards and envelopes!).
Play board games.
Try a new recipe.
Read all the books that’ve been collecting dust on your bookshelf (for me, it’s A Burning by Megha Majumdar, Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump, and Little Eyes by Samantha Schweblin).
Learn how to ice tie dye.
If you’re compelled to fill the gaps of your day with work, take some time to indulge in self-care practices, engage in mindfulness exercises or explore niksen, the Dutch concept of doing nothing, as a way to ease your mind and enjoy the present moment. You can reap the benefits of niksen by engaging in activities as simple as sitting in your backyard and watching the trees sway in the wind. The key is to dedicate time to letting your mind wander without the desire to accomplish anything from the activity itself. Try it — you’ll be amazed by how invigorated and creatively inspired you’ll feel afterwards.
2. Set yourself up for success.
If you don’t feel confident all will be OK at work while you’re out, you’re more likely to sneak onto Slack or do “just a little bit” of work when you’re supposed to be offline.
Before you shut off all of your work-related devices and stow them away as you head into your vacation, carve out some time a week or two before your vacation to outline your outstanding projects and create an out-of-office plan for your co-workers and project stakeholders. Your out-of-office plan can be as simple as a bulleted list on Slack or a more thorough Notion doc, depending on how long you’ll be out for and what will be most helpful to your team.
Loom is especially handy for this, because you can send messages to individual teammates detailing any coverage you need, or send a sign-off loom to a larger group to remind them you’ll be out and where your projects stand.
The day before you’re out-of-office, remember to set up a vacation responder for your email, update your status on workplace chat tools, and indicate you’re out-of-office on your calendar to cover all of your bases.
3. Ease back into work.
Before you head out on vacation, be sure to carve out some focused time the day or two after you return to give yourself enough time to properly catch up on emails, DMs, and video messages and slowly get back into the swing of things.
At Loom, it’s customary for Loommates to share post-vacation video messages to celebrate work-life balance and create deeper connections with teammates, even across different time zones.
Sending a post-vacation loom allows you to bookend your vacation experience and transition back to work. Bonus: Seeing and hearing your co-workers talk about their time off feels like a mini-vacation (at least to me!).
Vacation time: a must-have, not a nice-to-have
It doesn’t matter if you no longer have a commute or can (sometimes) work from your bed — working from home during COVID-19 and beyond shouldn’t stop you from taking a much-deserved break. Taking time off eases stress, improves your health, and boosts productivity — which will equally benefit both your work life and personal life.
Let us know how these time off ideas resonate with you, and let us know some of your go-to staycation activities on Twitter.
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Written by Karina Parikh
Karina is a Content Marketing Manager at Loom.