Hands up if you’ve felt wistful seeing the calendar reminder for a big holiday that you’ve had to cancel thanks to the global pandemic or if you’re trying to reconcile yourself to a staycation — if you’re even still thinking of taking time off.
The way 2020 has unfolded still feels surreal at times.
My partner and I had to cut an international trip short and thankfully made the last flight home to Canada back when this all started. Tricia, our wonderful Padraig administrator, just shared with all of us on Zoom that she’s missing the big trip she had planned for a milestone birthday in July (Happy birthday!). Just about everyone I know has given up on a summer getaway.
Naturally, we’re not alone. As they say, misery loves company and the Internet has not disappointed with hilarious memes and observations about how the Coronavirus has changed travel:
And the new pandemic trip planning:
Some borders are slowly reopening, but outbreaks are being reported all the time. We know that stay-at-home orders have worked and that health experts say that IF there is a viable vaccine it won’t be any time soon.
Some people don’t want to take time off work right now. This might be because:
- After working remotely, they feel unseen and thus they should prove their worth
- If they work on the frontlines or in essential service roles, they might feel obligated to keep working (all hands on deck!)
- They’re worried about job stability and want to bank vacation time in case they end up out of work
- Parents who work remotely and have small children may want to ease their double-duty by taking turns taking vacation so one parent is free to entertain the kiddos
- It feels better to be busy and useful than doing “nothing” at home when a “real vacation” isn’t possible right now
Taking time off this summer
The global pandemic may have changed holiday plans and travel, but here are the reasons we need to make taking time off this summer a priority:
It’s not a waste to take vacation days and stay home. Taking time off does not mean you have to go away somewhere (although that is always a nice way to recharge!). What is important is that you have a mental break from work demands and time to enjoy a little rest and recreation — especially leaders and essential workers trying to avoid burnout. A vacation is not about the destination, it’s about how you spend your time. Miss the excitement of planning a holiday? Find the joy in planning things to do at home that you don’t normally get to do (video game marathon, bike rides, renovating a room or gardening might be on your list).
Do something to change your perspective. Do you remember the scene in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society where the teacher (played by Robin Williams) stands on his desk to inspire his students? He says, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.” For a vacation at home during a pandemic, this can be as simple as finding a new route to walk or neighbourhood to explore, packing a picnic, or camping in your backyard and looking at the stars. You’ll return to work (at your dining room table or otherwise!) feeling more creative and ready to focus.
Allow yourself the luxury of not being busy because it’s good for your health. We’re months into a pandemic and we don’t know what will happen next. Now, more than ever, we need to take care of ourselves. I’ve heard people say that after months stuck at home they don’t “deserve” to take time away from work, but we need to redefine the way we think of being productive right now — and accept that we need a break. As leaders, if we prioritize our own mental health and physical wellbeing, then our team members are more likely to follow suit. Stress and fatigue compromise our immune systems, so consider holidays at home to be preventative medicine. (Pro tip: As leaders, it’s wise to encourage our team members to take time off so they are at their most productive, but also so there isn’t a huge amount of banked vacation time at the end of the year to either roll over or pay out.)
Here are two important strategies to help with your staycation time:
Make the most of the time you can take. If you aren’t able to take a week or two weeks off because of your work situation, book a few long weekends. It’s amazing the difference one extra day off can make for mental health and focus. Do something that you always put off — cooking something complicated, indulging in some favourite films, making some art or building a model car.
Protect your time off. If you stay in touch with work on your time off, it’s not a real break. Make sure that you know how to really unplug from work when you’re on vacation. Consider it necessary for your well-being to take a real break from work after months of quarantine. Insist that you will be out of touch and live up to that. When your staff are ready to take time, insist they, too, unplug completely.
Has your perspective on taking time off this summer changed? What could you do to be intentional about your summer holiday this year? What can you do that might encourage your team to take time off?