Unplugging on vacation: Can you go cold turkey?

Nope. That’s what my “highly scientific” Facebook survey found out.

And by scientific, I mean I did a Facebook poll about a week ago on the CPBJ Women in Leadership page and a few dozen respondents shared with me how they unplug when they go on vacation.  

The short answer? Most don’t. Ninety percent of us don’t entirely unplug. In fact, most of us stay connected in some way to our phones and our workplaces.

But some do not, like my good friend, Deslynn Ropp in York County. She has the right idea: 

“If I get any non-emergency texts or calls, I simply tell them I’m on vacation and that they need to contact someone in the office … I typically have someone in our office take lead while I’m on vacation,” she wrote on the Leadership page. 

She’s right. You do need to find that contact in the office who can answer the work questions. You have been dreaming about the beach for weeks and have shelled out hundreds for the condo. Take a break. You deserve it. 

Another friend shared this: 

“Great question Cathy … I’m very fortunate, and thankful, that an out-of-office message can direct everyone to my staff,” said Lutricia Eberly, director of sales at Roundtop Mountain Resort. “They know they are always welcome to reach out to me themselves, but clients don’t have my personal contact info. I consider myself very blessed that my team can function without me, which allows me to 100 percent check out!”

Here’s what my Facebook poll found:

About 58 percent of us will leave our phone somewhere else, in the hotel room for example, and check any work messages just once a day, only answering emergencies. The rest of the messages will have to wait until we return to the office. 

Roughly 27 percent will keep our phone with us, but don’t respond unless we need to. 

A brave 11 percent go cold turkey. They don’t even take the phone with them. 

And 2 percent said “Forget it. I can’t unplug.” 

I’m in the first category. I can’t go cold turkey, but I can leave the phone in the hotel room and just check it once a day, answering it only in emergencies. I’ll also try to clean out my messages before returning to the office. Plowing through hundreds of messages does not make for a great first day back.

Here’s a look at what some Facebook group readers shared about unplugging. 

I have done the cold turkey for a long weekend. It was heaven for three of us and torture for the youngest member of our group. I would definitely do it again.
– Rebecca Eastman

Cold turkey. Did it on vacation, a few years ago. This past vacation, put the phone on airplane mode, and only checked in from time to time.
-Jan Runman

Some respondents have their own business, and really couldn’t unplug entirely. 

I’m conflicted with this Cathy. In the world of PR, it’s impossible to unplug because monitoring is a 24/7 responsibility. But when I can arrange to unplug, the best way to do it is to go device-less. A few years ago, my husband and sons took me to Bedford Springs for Mother’s Day. I had told my team and my sister that I wasn’t bringing my phone so they knew to get in touch with my husband if there was a real emergency. When my sons found out, they couldn’t believe it! It was a true respite and Twitter survived without me for 48 hours šŸ˜‰
– Anne Deeter Gallaher

As a business owner completely unplugging is difficult. That said, I frequently unplug for 36 hours at a time. Weekends, holidays, long weekends, etc. …
– Kimberly Rutherford Cole

And others have worked their way around the technology

I change my password on the server at work and don’t update my phone. That way, I CAN’T BE TEMPTED. They have my cell to call or text if it’s an emergency that requires me, but my unplugging has also helped others to realize they can make calls without me and that is A-OK if I am out!
– Kristen Eisenbraun Houser

You might want to check into the companies that no longer allow their employees to stay plugged in. They re-route e-mails to other team members in effort to get their employees to truly re-charge. Doesn’t work for everyone but for many people it would work well.
– Caroline Morris

Cathy Hirko
Cathy Hirko is Associate Publisher/Editorial Director for the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business. Email her at chirko@bridgetowermedia.com.

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