Yes, You Should Take a Vacation in the Middle of a Pandemic

It’s hard to know if it’s acceptable to take a vacation amid a pandemic and downsizing. Where are you going to go? Will your job be there when you get back?

We surveyed dozens of managers and business owners, and their advice is clear: Unless you’re just returning from a furlough, take your vacation days. “It is extremely important,” says Tiffany Glenn, vice president for human resources at payroll and HR services provider ADP. “HR should be advising time away, even if you are not visiting a destination.”

Workers aren’t heeding this advice. “We’ve noticed that people haven’t been booking as many vacation days this summer as in years past,” says Tanya Prior, director of people at phone service provider TextNow. The company closed on July 1-3 (Wednesday to Friday) to give workers a five-day holiday; other companies are asking employees to use half of their paid time-off days by September. Here are a few things to think about before it’s suddenly Labor Day, and you haven’t moved from your desk in months:

Why should I take a vacation? One word: burnout. It poses a much bigger threat to your team and career than taking time off. You’ve been in a “highly stressful and intense situation for months, trying to manage new and challenging work-life balances,” says Andrew Roderick, chief executive officer of Credit Repair Cos. While you may have had breaks, you “haven’t had a break from everything that is happening.” So take one. It’s “definitely your right,” adds Nora Jenkins Townson, principal at Bright and Early, an HR consulting firm.

How should I ask for time off? Use the conversation as an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment. “Good planning, communication, and coordination before and after vacation will reinforce your professionalism and dedication,” says Elaine Varelas, managing partner at leadership consulting firm Keystone Partners.

Address potential issues in advance, says Adam Selita, CEO of Debt Relief Co. Ask yourself how taking time off will affect your team; give at least four weeks’ notice; communicate with managers about timing; and get caught up on work before you leave so that the time off doesn’t cause you to fall behind. Lastly, pick an emergency liaison. “Choose one co-worker whose judgment you trust, and ask them to reach out to you during your vacation only if a true emergency strikes,” says Rachel Cooke, host of the Modern Mentor podcast.

What should I do? Your goal is to free your mind from contemplating the pandemic, working from home, cabin fever, the news, and your isolation or lack thereof. In addition to rekindling an old hobby, think about:

  • Safe trips. Socially distanced camping, renting an RV or van.
  • Local sightseeing. City walks; hikes; swimming holes; vineyard hopping. “One of my direct reports said that she was not going to use her vacation, as she did not have any plans,” says Kerry Wekelo, CEO at financial-services firm Actualize Consulting. “I suggested she take a few long weekends and do local explorations. We live in Virginia, and many drives are beautiful.”

While you’re out, you’ll want to accomplish one work-related task: “Do an inventory of what your new work world feels like,” says Kyle Nakatsuji, CEO of insurance startup Clearcover. Ask yourself: What’s easier? What’s harder? What do I need to focus on that I didn’t before? How should I manage my time differently? Vacation is pivotal to seeing work with fresh eyes—even if you’re just on your couch.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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