Put Down Your Phone, Pick Up Your Fork: How to Unplug on Thanksgiving

by Stephan Maldonado | November 20, 2018

  • My Vault
Unplugging From Work Emails During the Thanksgiving Holiday

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, many of us are already fantasizing about the delicious aromas of our parents’ kitchens or dreading relatives’ inevitable barrage of questions about our careers and personal lives. If you work this week, you’re probably wrapping things up over the next day or so. But once that final email is sent, how many of us will actually unplug for the long weekend?

According to data released by LinkedIn in July, 70% of professionals are unwilling to unplug during vacation. In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s all too easy to succumb to the habit of checking emails when you’re supposed to be off. Disconnecting completely from work might be easier during the holidays, when most of our coworkers are also unavailable. Still, it’s hard to resist the urge to check in on that last item you couldn’t resolve before powering down your office computer.

Even the most phone-obsessed workaholic needs some R&R and quality time with loved ones over the holiday weekend. Here are some tips for unplugging this Thanksgiving, when the only thing that should be glued to your hand is your fork.

Set Your Out-of-Office Email

It might seem unnecessary to set an out-of-office email during a holiday when most people are out of the office, but it’s more important than you think. An out-of-office email sends a clear message that you take your downtime seriously, so even if your colleagues are checking in, they’ll know right away that you’re limiting email use. Also, if you work with clients or team members who live in other countries and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, it helps to remind them you’re unreachable this weekend.

If you need a little help with what to say, check out these out-of-office email templates we should all be using, and maybe add a short note to wish people a happy Thanksgiving.

Clearly Communicate Your Availability (or Lack Thereof)

Sure, everybody in the office is going to be out on Thursday—and probably Friday. But you won’t know your colleagues’ or manager’s expectations until you have a conversation with them. You might not be working this weekend, but will your boss be sending you emails and expecting a response? If so, let them know that you won’t respond until you’re back. This is especially important for people who are taking more time off this week—either leaving early on Wednesday or taking the entire week. And again, if you work with people abroad, they may need a reminder about the holiday.

Remember: it’s perfectly okay to set boundaries when you’re not in the office—especially during the holidays. The most important thing is communication.

Commit to Your Downtime

It’s not enough to simply tell coworkers you’re not available over the holiday weekend. If you truly want to unplug, you need to commit to your downtime. This means breaking the habit of checking emails. Periodically checking your emails during your time off will prevent you from unplugging completely and keep you in a working mindset—even if you don’t really have to work.

Trust your coworkers to respect your time off; if you’ve communicated your availability, and they themselves will also be celebrating, there should be no reason for them to email you. And if they haven’t emailed you, you don't need to check your emails.

Limit Your Phone Usage

If you find it difficult not to check your emails, remove the distraction. Turn off email notifications on your phone, or temporarily delete the apps you use for work-related items. Checking apps is habitual, and many of us develop a subconscious routine; even if we're checking social media, it’s easy for our fingertips to instinctually glide to our emails. 

Keep your phone turned off during Thanksgiving dinner, and minimize the time you spend on your phone throughout the long weekend.

If You DO Work, Manage Your Time

We get it: not everybody can disconnect completely. Lawyers have urgent client obligations. Web developers must mitigate heavy site traffic on Black Friday. If you do have to work during the holiday, be efficient about managing your time.

Barring emergencies, set aside the time you will spend on work each day, and hold yourself to a schedule. Delegate to coworkers who are also working, and prioritize so you only work on tasks that can’t wait til Monday. You can still disconnect from emails if you ask your coworkers to text you for any emergencies. You’ll rest easier knowing you’ll still be notified of an urgent issue without having to check your emails, and your coworkers will think more carefully about sending a text than an email.

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

Tags: email etiquette | holiday season | holiday work | Thanksgiving | unplug

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