Mom doing work from homeDuring the holidays, you might look forward to the time away from work—unless you feel connected by the nagging need to check emails and voice mails. You wouldn’t be alone. A recent survey says 68 percent of Americans with work emails check them during their holiday vacations. How can you unplug and find the digital downtime you need to recharge or focus on your family? Julie Wayne, associate professor in the Wake Forest University Schools of Business says the first step is mindfulness.

The First Step is Mindfulness

“You should make a conscious decision to not just be physically present during the holidays, but emotionally and mentally engaged,” says Wayne, who studies work and family issues. “At work, be mentally and emotionally present, then do the same thing at home.”

Wayne suggests having a conversation with your boss about expectations for your availability during vacation time. “Sometimes people create this problem for themselves. They are used to answering their smartphone when it rings, buzzes, or flashes, but their employer may not expect them to be available,” says Wayne. “Having the talk up front allows you to unplug as necessary to enjoy your time away guilt-free.”

Set Boundaries

  • Use your out of office message on your email and voice mail vacation message to establish how long you’ll be away and how available you’ll be. A sample message can say you’re out of the office until a specific date, and will be unavailable or have limited access to messages. Be sure to recommend a back up person or give emergency contact information.
  • Consider temporarily disconnecting email service to your smartphone while you are out of the office.
  • If you can’t disconnect entirely and need to be responsive, set a designated time in your vacation message: “I will check emails between 2 and 3 pm each day.”

“Some jobs allow for stronger boundaries, but positions that are more client-centered have much more blurred boundaries—you’re expected to be available 24/7,” Wayne says. “That’s why you must think explicitly about your values and what you want for the holidays. Putting up structural boundaries will help you transition from each role.”

Can you disconnect from work while on a holiday vacation?