Working vacations are like lunch meetings — you can’t enjoy your spinach salad because you’re in the middle of a meeting, and you can’t focus on the meeting because you’re worried about having spinach stuck in your teeth. Balancing business with pleasure is never simple.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to continue business as usual wherever you are, making work always accessible – and inescapable. Whether you travel frequently for work or have a job that requires you to always be “on,” even during personal time off, a fully unplugged trip is not always possible.
“A lot of people I see feel anxious about taking vacations because it means unmet deadlines, paperwork piling up on their desk and maybe an irritated employer when they return,” says psychotherapist Matt Lundquist, founder of Tribeca Therapy in New York. “The vacation turns into an obligation to have a great time and to not fall behind at work. There is just no chance of succeeding that way.”
However, when done correctly, Lundquist says both can be achieved.
The three biggest workation challenges are generally failure to set expectations with travel partners beforehand, not striking a good balance of work and recreation and struggling to work in a new environment. “It can seem romantic to sit at a cafe overlooking the Danube while you work, but it can be difficult to feel at home in your thoughts when things seem so different outside,” Lundquist said.
Discuss with your travel partner in advance what your expectations are for the trip before you go. Let everyone know that you need to get some work done, and what your schedule will be each day.
To that end, try to set a schedule and keep it. “If you normally work in the mornings, work in the mornings on the trip and set a hard exit time when you need to close your computer or get off the phone,” Lundquist said. “This can be a tricky thing to do when your schedule is unusual, as it often is when traveling, but carving out a set time to begin and end will allow you to not let an hour or two of work creep into a full day spent sitting behind a desk.”
Finally, consider bringing some familiar work elements along with you to help improve your work focus. “It seems silly,” Lundquist said, “but if you normally use a mouse rather than a trackpad or if you take notes on a certain kind of notepad, bringing those things on your trip can be a big help to your productivity.”
Read more articles about travel-related health topics at AAA.com/LiveWell.