Work-Life Integration

Time Off, Pandemic Edition

How to Recharge Despite, Well, Everything

Black woman in a mask in front of a purple background with travel icons.

A friend of mine who is spending the summer working remotely from her family's lake house took last week off to relax, recharge, and get out on the water in the middle of a weekday instead of just looking at it longingly while she's on Zoom calls.

Another friend is on vacation this week. Even though she's stuck in her apartment under a strict lockdown, she's using her time to sleep, cook, write, and generally engage in self-care activities.

And a third friend is taking next week off and plans to spend a few days camping in a local state park, connecting with nature and ignoring every single one of her Slack notifications.

Vacationing this summer might not look like what you expected. There will be no trips to Europe, no big musical festivals, and certainly no all-inclusive cruises in your near-term future.

But that doesn't mean that you can't vacation—and the majority of you are still planning to. We polled our audience and found that 65% of people plan to take time off this summer, with half of them doing so as a "staycation" and half heading away from home for safe travel, and only 32% of people planning to reschedule vacation days for a later point.

Whether you take PTO to disconnect from work, catch up on household chores, reconnect with loved ones, or just relax, taking vacation is a good way to manage and support your mental health. And companies are in sync with that: a recent WSJ article explains that many companies actually want employees to take off time now because it'll reduce the chances of them burning out and it'll help avoid a glut of vacation days all taken near the end of the year.

If you are planning on still taking vacation and haven't figured out how to do so yet, here are some tips on how to make the most of it.

1. Communicate well.

You're working from home (or, said less optimistically, living at work). Can you still ask to take time off even if you're not going anywhere? The answer is unequivocally yes, but doing so isn't as straightforward as it was in the Before Times. Read the PTF guide for asking for time off while you're working remotely for tips like choosing your dates ahead of time, putting your request in writing, and setting up good escalation methods.

2. Set yourself up for success upon your return.

No one wants to click into their work inbox after a week off and find it full of disasters. PTF's Marketing Director shared her tried-and-tested approach to preparing to take time off, including a sample vacation email to send out the day before that you can and should copy, paste, and send to your manager. Don't say we never gave you anything.

3. Choose the vacation that's right for you.

Some people feel comfortable traveling for their vacation. Others don't want to leave the house. We're not here to judge anyone's plans, particularly since no one's personal circumstances and local regulations are exactly the same. As long as you are educating yourself about what's safe and allowed in your area and acting responsibly, we support any and all versions of vacations—and here are some of our favorites:

The staycation. Whether you live in a COVID-19 hotspot or just don't want unnecessary exposure, you might feel most comfortable spending time at home on your days off. Try one of these subsects of a staycation:

  • The creative outlet. Bring out the puff paint, the tie-dye kits, the notebooks, the cookbooks, the charcoal: there's a new master artist in town. Spend a few days unlocking the creative side of your brain, exploring your imagination, and getting your hands dirty, and come back refreshed and full of new ideas.
  • The productive sprint. Maybe you're the kind of person who loves crossing items off your to-do list, but you haven't had time to make progress on them while juggling the craziness of these last few months. Use some of your vacation days to finish those lingering house improvements, plant the garden you've been meaning to get around to, update your financial planning, or take care of whatever tasks are hanging over your head. The weight off your shoulders will be worth it.
  • The backyard adventure. Sure, maybe Disney World got booted off the summer agenda. But setting up an outdoor viewing of Frozen sounds pretty fun, too, right? (Bonus points if you dress up in costume and give autographs like the characters in Orlando would've done.) Whether you go for a movie double-feature, backyard tent camping, or your own version of the American Ninja Warrior course, taking a few days off to enjoy time spent with family in your own backyard is a great idea.
  • The My Week of Rest and Relaxation. Have you read Ottessa Moshfegh's darkly funny, strangely prescient novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation? If you haven't, here's a quick synopsis: a young women feeling a bit lost plans to escape life by using prescription drugs to sleep for a year. We are very much not recommending that you do that, but we do fully support you using your time off to just rest. You don't have to have a creative or productive or busy vacation—you can spend it sleeping in and reading books (starting with that one).

The local escape. If you can travel a bit outside of home, but still don't particularly want to get on a plane, try one of these vacation adventures:

  • The bike trip. It feels like everyone I know is becoming a bike person and I love it. Helmeting up and biking around is a great way to get to know your own city. Look up the closest body of water and plan a trip there, decide on an arbitrary distance (maybe a century, if you're feeling strong?) and make it happen, or just head out with no destination in mind and enjoy the sound of the wind through your spokes.
  • The park hop. National and state parks are, by and large, still open—and they're a great place to get in some time with nature while also social distancing. Head out for a good old-fashioned road trip with friends or family for all the hiking, mountain-worshipping, and picnicking you can handle.
  • The Airbnb adventure. Maybe you want to spend your vacation doing a whole lot of nothing but want to stare at a different four walls while you do it. Look for local properties with updated cleaning polices and rent a local getaway. A change of scenery may be just what you need to finally relax long enough to watch an entire season of New Girl in peace.
  • The faux luxe escape. Have you heard of apps like Swimply and Turo? The former lets you book local private pools by the hour, and the latter does the same but with private cars. Spend a day at a swimming spot that's close to home and all yours (at least for an afternoon) and another few days cruising around in your dream car, whether it's a classic or a convertible. Indulging in activities that feel like a luxury vacation but come without the all-inclusive price tag will keep both you and your wallet happy.

However you decide to safely take PTO this summer, we hope your time off helps you relax and recharge. And if you read any great books on vacation? Send those recs our way, friends.

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