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How Can You Take Time Off Work During COVID?

Person sitting at a desk writing in the light of a lamp

Next week, I will be taking time off work for a staycation. You might be raising your eyebrows and thinking…but haven’t the last seven months been an extended staycation?? Why take a staycation when we’ve just been sitting at home? There are a myriad of reasons why I’ll be shutting down my work station for a week and recharging my batteries, but the plain and simple answer is: I need time off. 

Recent surveys have found that workers are logging longer hours while working from home and many are planning to take fewer vacation days than in previous years. This sounds like a recipe for burn out. I could easily be in this category. When the lines between work and home are extremely blurred, it’s easy to forget how many work hours you’ve truly been logging. And when you can’t actually go on that vacation to Disney, it’s tempting to not do anything at all.

My team and I talked about this at length on our team meeting, and we brought up the ‘all or nothing’ mindset that we can easily fall into. We get locked into seeing what isn’t possible (e.g. going across the country for a vacation), that we don’t see the other possibilities that could still give us respite. One of the lessons of COVID has been that we have to experiment and find things that we are able to do, even though they may not be the full experience. 

Kristin brought up that she felt as if the opportunities to make memories and have experiences had been paused. When you’re living in Groundhog Day, there aren’t a lot of events to take photos of, look forward to, or document in your journal. However, she realized that we all just have to work a bit harder and get creative to create those memories. As Teresa so poignantly said: What about the experiences you want to have might still be available? How can you still have those touch points of humanity?

“Ok, ok SNoW Co! You’ve convinced me to take time off work. But how do I stay away from work when my work is AT home??”

Don’t worry, we talked about this too!

Once again, it’s taking up a spirit of experimentation. (Are you sensing a theme here?) We are all experimenting with creating a ritual of shutting down our work station so we can mentally and physically separate work and home. These tips and ideas are things that I’ll be trying while I’m off work, and are things that the team have used in the past and are transitioning to work from home life.

  • Move your work station. I’ll be moving my work desk (in my living room) up against a wall. I think this physical act of moving it to a ‘closed’ position will trigger a sense of work being closed.
  • Move your email app to the last screen on your phone (or delete the mail app!) I also have an accountability buddy in Kristin who kindly gives me a wrist slap when she sees emails from me during vacation time. If you can’t step away from email completely, schedule one or two limited windows of time to check it during vacation.
  • During her previous job, Teresa would give herself a certain point on her drive home that she was allowed to think about work. After the moment she crossed her point, a bridge, she couldn’t think about work. She gave herself a clear break. When working from home, experiment with giving yourself that defined time. I’m allowed to process work until I make dinner, etc.
  • Try changing clothes. Or…try putting on work clothes for the day! And then changing into your comfy clothes after work.
  • Rachel is experimenting with creating clear boundaries within her house. Each part of the house has a defined purpose, and so it creates mental boundaries. She only eats dinner at her table, only works at her desk, etc.

We are in the era of adaptive challenges and experimenting to find solutions. Taking time off and stepping away from work is just another thing that may not look the same, but is important to experiment with and find what works for you.

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