Take a real vacation
Last month, I took my first real vacation in three years. I say “real” because, although I have taken vacations more recently, I have worked during all of them.
This time, I was intentional about leaving my laptop behind and not responding to email. Being a DEI practitioner isn’t the hardest or most stressful job in the world, but it does require a level of emotional energy that some other jobs don’t require. Despite scheduling downtime each week, I was feeling a need for a deeper reset. In order to be successful, I recognized that I had to be intentional.
I started planning for the disconnection two weeks ahead. I literally put on my calendar: “Start preparing for vacation.” That was my reminder to wrap up projects and let clients know that I would be out of office.
The night before leaving, I set my vacation message to say “I will be on vacation from ____ to ____. I will respond to your message when I return.” In the past, I used to say things like, “I will check email once a day, please forgive my delayed response.” My new vacation message felt downright liberating!
It was hard to leave the laptop behind. I second guessed myself up to the night before. And I won’t lie, I glanced at email on my phone from time to time. But the temptation to peek lessened, and the inbox remained unread as I eased into vacation mode.
It was worth it. There is something special about taking a full week and truly separating from work. I returned to work on Monday feeling refreshed. Why hadn’t I allowed myself to do this for so long?
All workers need some downtime. As I think about people who are in underrepresented groups working in mostly majority organizations—like Black employees in a mostly white companies, or solitary LGBTQ+ folks among colleagues who are all straight and cisgender—I think their needs are especially acute. They might not have the job of holding emotion like DEI practitioners, but the cumulative stress calls out for restoration too.
I’m my own boss, so the decision to unplug is in my control. For most people, managers may be putting pressure on people to keep up while on leave, consciously or otherwise.
I get it—the work doesn’t stop. But you need the people who do the work to be at their best, and with the stamina to stay at it. Give your people a break. Give yourself one as well. Not only do we deserve it. We need it.