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11 Ways to Vacation at the Office

A worker with flip-flops and her feet on the desk. By Victoria Brienza

It’s that time of year again, when it seems like everyone in the office is on vacation except you. You’d love to be off on a tropical island, sipping a fruity drink with an umbrella while soaking in the sun. But instead, you’re working on an endless project and that proverbial vacation light at the end of the tunnel is about as clear as the Milky Way on a cloudy night.

If you’re like most people, you don’t use three full vacation days each year that you deserve, according to a survey by So why is it that those elusive vacation days we work so hard for all year are being ignored? Reasons vary, but many people fear the repercussions at work if they take off, or they’d rather cash in their time off. And for those who do get away, nearly 24% admit that they check their work e-mail and voicemail while on vacation.

Taking time out for ourselves, our families and our sanity is an important part of life. These mental breaks help our brains re-energize, help us to feel renewed and, in the end, be more productive. Whether you can physically get away on vacation or just find ways each day to make time for you, it’s important to your health and well-being.

No worries, though! If you’re stuck in the office during this vacation season or just need to find ways to better balance work and life, here are 11 tips to help you work like you’re on vacation:

  • Set the Timer

    Set times that you check e-mail and respond:

    Do you ever feel like you’re always getting interrupted by e-mails, instant messages and meetings? Like the only time you can get the actual work done is before work, during lunch or after everyone else has headed home for the day. Well, you’re not alone! According to a workplace study from the University of California, Irvine, the average amount of time people spend on any single event before being interrupted or before switching activities was about three minutes. That’s 160 interruptions or changes of course every eight-hour work day. No wonder why productivity seems so elusive some days.


By responding to e-mails right after they arrive, we teach our co-workers that they can e-mail us and get an immediate response. If you set a schedule of times you check e-mail throughout the day, then you can create space for yourself to get work accomplished, and later have focused time where you can give your full attention to your e-mails. The same goes for instant messages. If you need quiet time, put your “away” message up. The e-mails and instant messages will still be there in an hour or two. And if a co-worker really needs to get your attention, they can pick up the phone or walk by your desk for the answer. Another trick is to schedule meetings with yourself in your calendar. These are dedicated times for you to get your work done and be and feel productive.


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