A tell-tale sign of needing a day off is when you begin googling, “how to relax”, or the simple fact that you’re reading a post about how to enjoy a vacation. Either way, no judgment.
What is it about taking mental health days that makes so many of us second guess whether or not we really “need” it? With nearly 30% of Americans not even planning on using their full (and often meager) amount of offered vacation days, it’s no surprise that many of us no longer know how or when to unplug.
It may be time to seriously consider some time off if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions that the Mayo Clinic considers to be signs of burnout:
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do you find it hard to concentrate?
Oftentimes, vacations mean spending money—expenses such as air travel, hotel, and excursions all add up!
However, in current times where taking a vacation may look more like staying at home, it can be even more difficult to convince ourselves we need a break. Whether you peg it as vacation, a mental health day, or self-care, it usually comes down to requesting some well-deserved time off from work—which brings about another hurdle.
Does the thought of talking to your manager about vacation make you anxious? You’re not alone, 50% of UK workers report that booking days off face-to-face is more stressful than booking virtually.
So, what now? It seems we’re stuck in a vacation-stress-loop. From creating a seamless, virtual time off request process, to discovering how to truly unplug—let’s all learn to relax, together.
Stressless Vacation Requests: The MCBs
The recipe for vacation-requests has never looked so simple. At Trello, relaying our days off to the team comes down to the MCBs. First things first: the process is completely virtual. There is no expectation to video/phone call our manager to inform them of days off, making it less intimidating and quite frankly, less awkward.
Rather, the team starts off the process with M: Tell your manager. Via email, Slack, anything. As long as they are informed and it can be documented.
Next, C: Calendar. We make sure that whichever days off you have taken are noted down on not only your personal calendar but on the larger team calendar. This ensures that everyone can have access to seeing who is around and when.
That goes for leadership as well, seeing bosses and supervisors taking days off via the team calendar helps normalize the idea of ‘Use your vacation days! They are yours! We are human!’
Lastly, B: Board. Just like any successful process, we involve a Trello board. Much like a team calendar, we have a team Trello board with a vacation list that plots out everyone’s upcoming vacation days. Why document your VAC on a calendar AND on a Trello board? Simply because it’s easier to keep track of the days/weeks that you and your colleagues are deciding to take off. With a calendar, you can see overlap, and with a Trello list you can view an easy-to-read list of who is out and when.
Our in-house Trello board vacation rules are: create a card after speaking to your manager, list out the days you’re taking off, and add your avatar to the card. Look how clean and easy that looks!
Remembering the MCBs before a vacay, keeps the stress far away!
I Got Some Time Off. What Now?
Welcome to your day off, your staycation, your mental health day, your PTO day your boss forced you to take—whatever you want to call it. It’s a full 24 hours of no office work.
Just because you may be working from home nowadays doesn’t mean you’re truly unplugging at the end of each day. Using your vacation time to come back rejuvenated is paramount. In a recent article, Founder and CEO, Arianna Huffington, digs into the importance of replenishing your health:
If you’re a professional athlete, you may already know this. The rest of us, however, need the extra nudge to really focus on our mental health and emotional well-being.
The road to burnout is lined with overworking, stress, and lack of mental balance—the antidote being a truly relaxing and self-care-filled day(s) off.
What does that look like, exactly?
Goodnight, Sleep Tight
As tempting as it may be to spend your day off by sleeping late and bingeing movies, it’s not exactly a part of the recipe for mental replenishment. Study after study shows a direct correlation between brain function and the quality/amount of sleep you are getting.
Giving your body a literal rest is what this day off is all about. Sure, trying to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep is what many of us aim for, but the surveys don’t lie—nearly 40% of the US population struggles to get even 6 hours per night.
How does your time off fit into this? For starters, aim to get enough sleep the night before your day off to give your mind and body the best chance to start things afresh! Remember, no caffeine past 3pm, and try to turn those screens off at least an hour before heading to bed.
Plus, a good night’s rest can lead to having your dream morning routine (fingers crossed.)
Throw Your Work Devices Out The Window
Ok, not literally. You will likely get heavily fined.
However, putting your work laptop/phone/pager, etc. out of sight is the right move to make. Going truly notification-free on your day off is paramount in order to actually feel rejuvenated when you do begin working again.
Some ways to feel better about not checking your office devices:
- Away notifications did not die with AIM. Make sure your email and messaging apps make it clear that you are not online. f you’ve followed the MCBs then your entire team will know you’re gone for the day
- Out of sight, out of mind. Put your devices in a spot where you cannot physically see them. Especially while you’re working from home, separating leisure and work time is key.
- Setting expectations with your team. Politely mentioning how you won’t be reachable by email or any other forms of communication is a-ok. Trust me, taking time off will be way more beneficial than answering that one DM asking a ‘quick question’.
Do Something You Enjoy
Remember hobbies? Those things you did for no real reason except that they brought you peace and joy—it’s time to start that again.
Whether that means reading a book (preferably outdoors if possible!), playing video games, painting, fixing up your garage, or even underwater basket weaving, using your day of self-care to be happy is...sort of the point!
Don’t really have a hobby? Using your hands for things other than scrolling through our phones shows cognitive benefits as well—try your hand (literally) at something new for the day that can get your mind off what it’s usually on.
What’s even better is asking friends and family to join in on an activity: cooking, playing games, even hanging out virtually is a possibility.
Taking time off can feel as tough as admitting that you may need time off. No matter how ‘busy’ work is getting, it’s important to prioritize the one doing the work: yourself.
The practice of taking mental health days and putting self-care first is what your team, career, and your community need in times of stress. Encouraging those around you to take a few days off can go a long way!
Take a deep breath, whether it’s before requesting some VAC or while it’s sitting on your couch just taking in the day. And when you do take a day off, instead of needing to google how to relax, you’ll actually be able to do the darn thing!
Good or bad, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)