One Small Thing

1 simple act to help you truly unplug from work while on vacation

Many of us have been there: You're enjoying a blissful vacation when your phone buzzes and you can't resist the urge to check. It's work — again.

In this digital age, emails and meeting invitations don't stop just because you're taking a few days off. But what if you really, seriously want to unplug? It's not just about having a better vacation — experts say it could also contribute to productivity when you return to work.

"It's extremely important and valuable for not only the employees, but the company as well," human resources expert Christie Joseph told TODAY. "In order for people to be innovative, excited and refreshed, people need time to unplug. They really do."

But how? The secret might be in an email. Before you leave, send a note to everyone you work with, including colleagues and regular clients, and follow these tips:

1. Timing matters

It’s a common mistake to tell coworkers about your vacation the day before you leave, Joseph said.

At least a few days before your trip, send an email saying you’ll be going away soon, and include the exact dates.

"Nobody wants to be surprised when they send an email and get an out-of-office [reply], if it's someone you work with regularly," Joseph said.

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How to beat the end-of-vacation blues

Play Video - 1:54

How to beat the end-of-vacation blues

Play Video - 1:54

2. Give status updates for current projects

Working on a long-term project that won’t be done before you leave? Mention that in the email.

“Give a quick update and personalize it to who you’re sending the email to,” Joseph said. “Say, ‘When I get back, I plan on addressing XYZ.'”

That way, they’ll know that even though you’re gone, you’re still on top of what needs to be done.

3. Include an alternate contact

Even if you get everything in order before you leave, emergencies happen and questions arise. But if your email includes a coworker as an alternate contact, you’re less likely to hear about them until after you return home.

But what if unplugging is impossible?

While it’s hard to argue the benefits of unplugging, there’s a flip side to the story: Is it even appropriate to tell an employer you won’t be reachable for an extended period of time? Not everyone thinks so.

“It’s unrealistic to expect that you can go on a vacation and not check email once, given that everyone knows you travel with a phone,” Samantha Ettus, an author and work-life balance expert, told TODAY.

“Is it really hurting your vacation to check your email for 20 minutes a day?” she added. “Most likely you’re on your phone Instagramming your vacation anyway.”

While she’s not convinced we can all unplug entirely on vacation, she does agree with the before-you-leave email. But she has a caveat: Instead of saying you won’t be checking email, clearly state you will check email once a day, at a certain time. And then, actually do that — just check once a day, at that time.

“When you do that, you’ll be surprised by how few people will contact you," Ettus said. "They’ll respect that.”

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