The Struggle to Unplug: A PR Pro’s Ongoing Challenge

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A few years ago, I took my first long vacation (two whole weeks!) as a full-time, real-life working person. I went to a beautiful place, had a great time, and I checked my work email…every. single. day. I didn’t do this because my employer asked that I be accessible – I did it because I felt like my work world couldn’t possibly function without me there.

Spoiler: It can…at least in the short-term, and taking a real vacation and making efforts to unplug after work hours actually benefits more than just you. In fact, there have even been studies about how taking vacations can boost productivity and the economy and that while people often struggle to unplug at the end of the workday, doing so can help you re-focus, clear your head, and wind down from the day.

Luckily for us at LPP, summers are typically slightly quieter than the rest of the year, and we benefit from two additional vacation days (or “Beach Days”) and Summer Fridays where the office closes at 2 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Summer Friday?

But alas, summer is over (insert crying face emoji) and if my coworkers and fellow working professionals are anything like me, they’re hoarding their remaining vacation time for the holidays. With fewer vacations on the horizon and PR hardly fitting into the “typical 9-5” job category, we need to get creative on ways to unplug regularly and think about how to best take advantage of the remaining vacations we do have planned.

For me, my regular escape is that I go to a barre class six days per week unless I’m traveling or there is a project happening at work that warrants unusual hours. Since it is at a scheduled time, a clear end time is created at which time I need to leave the office, and it is the one hour of my day where I can’t have my phone… so I’m not just able to tune out everything, I actually have to.

So how do my fellow LPPers unplug?  Read on below for tips!

How we unplug after work…

  • “Letting loose with your co-workers is a great way to unplug from work. We are really lucky that we work with such great team members and that we actually enjoying going out together after work. This makes the hard or stressful times a little more bearable as you feel that you have friends alongside you.” – Josh DeStefano, Senior Account Executive
  • “One simple practice I do is to keep my phone in my purse or hidden from my view when I am meeting up with a friend for drinks or dinner after work. Sometimes, going a whole hour without checking-in can seem like an eternity, but it’s important to be an attentive listener in your relationships, and I’ve found that it can add more authenticity to a conversation!”Alexa Zoelle, Senior Account Executive
  • “I try to check my email only a few times in the evening and on the weekends unless I’m expecting something. If someone really needs something, they know how to find me. If I’m really busy and feel the need to work outside of regular hours to stay on top of my workload, which usually only happens when I’m working on an event, I make liberal use of the “delay delivery” feature. This minimizes the email my colleagues get during their non-working hours, and also helps contain the responses to my emails throughout the workday too.”  – Phoebe Francis, Account Manager
  • “I turn my phone on airplane mode to stop email from coming in/hinder me from checking it while I’m at the gym!”Angelica Bishop, Account Executive
  • “I try not to check my phone between the time I leave the office until the time that my kids go to bed, which is 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. It allows me to direct my full attention to them and get them to bed on time. I then typically check my email for a few minutes afterward.” – Emilie Salvagio, Vice President
  • “I try to avoid reading email on my phone. It helps me stay out of the work mindset after hours.”Jon Bird, Associate Account Executive
  • “Make sure the sound notifications are turned off for your work email on your phone, otherwise the pings will certainly raise your blood pressure! Unless you have something important going on, determine a set time when you are “done” for the day. For example, I usually check email on the train ride home which arrives around 7 p.m., but that’s it.” Julie Sculley, Senior Account Manager

How we tune out during vacation…

  • “For extended vacations, I delete the email app from my phone.” – Jackson Connell, Senior Account Executive
  • “Generally when I’m on vacation, I am totally tuned out (thanks to years of practice and the realization that the agency will not fall apart without me for a few days). I tell my teams to call or text me if they need me for anything major. That lets me feel that I can step away from email and know that I’ll be alerted if something urgent happens.” – Siobhan Nguyen, Account Manager
  • “My only advice is to pick vacation spots that do not have WiFi!” – Travis Small, Vice President
  • Sometimes it is not enough to just leave your laptop at work/home during a vacation. To really take this to the next level, I would recommend removing the work email inbox from your phone entirely. You can easily add it back as soon as you return to the office.  Also, most Americans allow their vacation time to lapse simply because they don’t want to deal with all the work that has to get done ahead of a vacation (not to mention what they will come back to post)—but this is why we have teams. Trust your colleagues and direct reports.” – Lindsay LeCain, Account Manager
  • “If I’m taking more than 3 days off, I almost always turn off my email so that I don’t get notifications. I also send really detailed transition notes, even if I’m only going to be out for a day. That means that not only does my team know the status of something, they know the next steps, who is in charge of taking those steps, and what to do if something unexpected happens with the action item. This minimizes my need to keep a close watch on my email while I’m out – my team has everything they need to handle things.” – Phoebe Francis, Account Manager

Fellow PR pros – do you struggle to unplug or truly tune out during your vacations? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!