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3 Ways To Really Put The "Vacate" Into Vacation

If your body goes "on vacation" but your mind never leaves your inbox, you're missing the real productivity-boosting bonuses of a work break.

While we were talking with Phil Libin, the Evernote CEO told us that in its quest to become a hundred-year startup, they're constantly pruning away any corporate culture handed down to them. Vacation policy quickly got cut.

Evernote's not alone: unlimited vacation is part of the code for workplace happiness at social coding startup GitHub, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings once said that the unlimited vacation policy is part of their "freedom and responsibility culture."

An open attitude toward vacation doesn't create anarchy. It ensures efficiency.

Business case: Vacation susses out single points of failure

With an open policy, you prevent people from hoarding days for later and squabbling about extra pay for days not taken off, HubSpot cofounder Dharmesh Shah once told us.. Instead, "Employees take the vacation when they need it and we don't have a spike of vacations at specific points of time," he says.

Leslie Perlow, the HBS professor and Sleeping With Your Smartphone author, noted to us how having one night of predictable time off a week for team members in the Boston Consulting Group led to 80/20 job sharing, where everyone shared at least part of their responsibilities and know-how about their gig with a colleague, meaning that someone else could put out that fire on your night off.

That positive effects of sharing your responsibility get expanded with more time away, the Motley Fool's Alison Southwick
once explained to us:

"When you suddenly take two weeks off, you need to make sure that other people around you understand what you do so that the company doesn’t come to a screeching halt if you’re gone," she says.

Plus a vacation—in which you've properly vacated your day-to-day duties—allows you to steep yourself in the screen-free peace that encourages integrating the experiences you've recently had—inside and outside of work—and settling into the downtime that's most fertile for creative insights, even though that's happening an a subconscious level.

Finally, vacation time is uniquely suited to plunging into another culture—opening up your bag of experiences and consequentially giving you more reference points to innovate from. The broader your experiences, the broader your creativity.

How to truly vacate

Doing vacation well starts before the boarding call for your flight. As lovers of informed relaxation, Fast Company has done some research on the subject:

  • Clear your desk before you hit vacation: make sure you give at least two weeks to close any of your major projects before you unplug. This, @Stuff LLC owner Mike Masin tells us, allows for worry-free disconnection.
  • Befriend airplane mode: Even if you're off the tarmac, switching your phone into airplane mode lets you be guided by GPS and not guided by a tweet barrage. It's the moderate's way of unplugging.
  • Pick the place: Head to a destination where WiFi and cell reception is absent—then you'll have no choice but to be where you are. And life will miraculously continue.

How do you vacate? Tell us in the comments and we'll weave the discussion in here.

Unlimited Vacation Doesn't Create Slackers—It Ensures Productivity

[Image: Flickr user _rachelerin]

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  • Bradley A Fleming

    Our rustic resort getaway was formed with this exact concept in mind. Our mantra is "Simplify, Clarify, and Connect." (Note: that our usage of "connect" is intended to be with live humans, not with a screen). I was fascinated with your article because of how it resonates with our values at Telunas Beach ( That's why we intentionally do not offer Wifi or have TVs in rooms. Even as an employee of such a place, it is a discipline to disconnect and engage people or to simply take time to reflect and enjoy the surrounding ... but it is so rewarding. 

  • Shamontiel

    When I went to Maui, I purposely didn't pay for web service in my room or take my computer to the lobby. Only problem is I now have a Smartphone so I'm pretty sure I won't have that same discipline on my next trip. But I definitely removed ALL of my work links from my bookmarks so even if I wanted to know what was going on at work, I couldn't. And I purposely have never memorized the web address to check work e-mail outside of Outlook and won't download Outlook on my home computer. Even my boss's boss gave me a lecture on working from home. When your BOSS tells you that you work too much, it's time to calm down.