Want to boost productivity? Start by helping your team truly unplug on their vacations.

Your employees are on a well-deserved vacation — but are they thoroughly enjoying their time off, or are they still tethered to their work emails? According to a recent survey, nearly half of U.S. employees continue working while on vacation.

In our digital age, that’s hardly surprising. The internet has blurred the lines between work and personal time, wreaking havoc on work/life balance. But when your team can’t fully disconnect, it’s not just their tan that suffers. Their mental well-being, job satisfaction and performance can also take a hit, dragging down morale — and, ultimately, your bottom line.

It doesn’t have to be this way. By taking proactive steps to ensure your team can unplug on vacation, you can boost employee well-being and engagement and create a more satisfying and productive work environment. Let’s explore three ways to help your workers enjoy their time off. 

1. set clear expectations

Setting clear expectations about disconnecting from work can be a game changer. Here’s how you can do this:

start a conversation

Discuss with your team the importance of fully unwinding during their vacation. This open dialogue will go a long way to dispel any concerns your employees might have about falling behind on work or letting their team down while they’re away.

make it official

Update your employee vacation policy to explicitly state that employees aren’t expected to work or be available during their summer break. 

walk the talk

As a leader, your actions speak louder than words and set the tone for your team. So make sure you practice what you preach: Fully disconnect from work during your own vacations.

2. embrace pre-vacation planning

It’s hard for employees to relax when there are nagging loose ends at work, tempting them to “pop online for just a sec.” Help them out by making pre-vacation planning the norm. For example:

think ahead

Whether it’s wrapping up projects, delegating tasks or preparing a handover document, encourage employees to plan ahead so coworkers can take care of their ongoing projects while they’re on vacation.

implement a handover process

Go a step further and establish a formal handover process involving a meeting with team members looking after the vacationing employee’s projects while they’re away. 

use project management tools

Use the technology you have on hand to your advantage: Project management tools allow for a smooth transition of tasks and help to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

3. nurture a culture that values time off

Real change happens when it becomes part of your company’s culture. Here are some strategies:

encourage time off

In a world where 26 percent of employees don’t use up their yearly paid vacation time, actively encouraging your employees to take time off can make a big difference. You could consider implementing a special incentive program (like a “no PTO left behind” bonus), giving kudos in team meetings for taking well-deserved breaks or emphasizing the value of vacation during performance discussions. Each action sends a clear message: taking time off is not just allowed, it's essential.

adopt flexible employee vacation policies

Instead of a fixed schedule, let your employees choose their vacation days or offer unlimited vacation time. This flexibility allows workers to optimize their work/life balance and shows respect for their personal lives.

celebrate the benefits

Whether you do it through internal newsletters, team meetings or one-on-one discussions, regularly highlight the benefits of taking time off, such as de-stressing and higher productivity during the rest of the year.

Building a work culture where your team feels at ease disconnecting from work during their vacation isn’t just a nice gesture — it’s a necessity that uplifts employees’ well-being and leads to a more productive, loyal and engaged workforce. So, let's make every vacation a real break. Your team deserves it!