9 busy people share the best tips for making the most of the holidays

Americans are notorious for not taking a break. The average American worker took less than 12 vacation days in 2021 – six fewer than the global average – according to Expedia’s latest Vacation Deprivation Study of 14,500 working adults in 16 countries.

Yet an overwhelming majority of workers say taking a vacation makes them more patient and motivated when they return to work.

As the summer travel season gets underway, CNBC Make It spoke to incredibly busy executives, vice presidents and senior executives about how they hack their PTO, from planning in advance to disconnecting from the network, going through what they include (and don’t). include) in their away messages.

Here’s how to maximize your PTO like a corporate VIP.

Plan your vacation in January

It turns out that returning to work after winter break is the perfect time to start planning your next vacation.

Kim Jones, head of talent strategy and people experience at PwC, spends every January thinking about her travel plans for the rest of the year. She even keeps a spreadsheet and divides her annual PTO into quarters.

You don’t have to make your PTO requests right away, but it’s good mental practice to pace yourself so you don’t end up with three weeks to use in December.

Be intentional, otherwise “the next thing you know, it’s been four, five or six months and you haven’t taken a day off,” Jones says. “There will always be things to do and we are always busy.”

It can be a big boost for morale, she adds: “Having a vacation planned really helps improve your frame of mind as you go through these difficult times.

Have a meeting before and after the holidays

Are you worried about falling behind while you’re away? Courtney McMillian, head of total rewards at Twitter, is getting ahead of the game by booking her vacation for business meetings.

A week or two before she leaves, she has a team meeting to “give a red light, a green light, or a yellow light to all the projects they’re working on so they can keep moving forward in my absence.”

Once back, she also schedules a meeting with her management team.

“It helps me get an idea of ​​what’s high on the priority list that needs my attention,” she says.

Do not include your phone number in your OOO

Some 63% of American workers put their phone number in their OOO message or give it to co-workers or customers, according to Expedia.

But even the president of Microsoft North America doesn’t — Deb Cupp says her OOO explicitly states she’s not available by email or phone.

“I used to say, ‘If there’s an emergency, you can reach me on the phone,'” Cupp said. “I stopped doing it because everyone’s definition of an emergency is different.”

She thinks being unavailable can be a good thing: other colleagues usually step in and get creative with the problem. “You’ll be surprised what happens when you get out of the way,” says Cupp. “It’s also good to help people seize those opportunities.”

Use Slack to sign out of work

Slack is great for getting work done more flexibly, but it can also make it harder to disconnect. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Engineering at Slack, has some tips for using the platform to improve his vacation.

First, instead of a traditional OOO email, Garcia updates her status two weeks in advance with details about her upcoming vacation. This way, their rating will appear wherever their name appears in channels and direct messages.

When messages arrive just before his vacation, he sets up Slack to remind him to follow up on his return. And when he’s off the clock, Garcia will update his status icon, mark his return date, and set a “do not disturb” schedule so he doesn’t get pinged on his phone.

Log out of social media while you’re at it

Social media can be its own distraction during the holidays. That’s why Eric Han, head of US security at TikTok, tries to stay away from devices while on the go.

He recommends an app called Freedom to limit access to certain sites and apps. Other times, he will delete social media like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok from his phone.

And in extreme cases, he’ll leave his phone locked in his hotel room. A travel hobby also helps: “I also do a lot of photography when I travel, so I can focus on that,” he adds.

Do not read the emails you receive on vacation, even after you return

Taking a break from work is fine, but returning to a full inbox is not.

This year, Desiree Pascual, Director of Human Resources at Headspace Health, decided to save herself the trouble and convey in her OOO message: “I am currently on vacation and will not be reviewing any emails that come in during my absence, including after my return.”

Instead, she expects anyone who really needs to get in touch to do so once they get back.

Maintain limits when people interrupt your PTO

Your ability to disconnect from work really depends on the willingness of your co-workers and your boss to do so. If co-workers interrupt your vacation, you may need to set and reaffirm those boundaries.

Try doing this in your OOO message, suggests Dr. Geeta Nayya, chief medical officer at Salesforce. His OOO will say, “If this is an emergency (i.e. someone is bleeding or has chest pain), please call me on my cell.”

“This absence from the office is meant to be ironic,” she says. “And if it’s not a real medical emergency, it’s a nice way of saying, ‘If you can call someone else on the team, I urge you to do so.’ “

Keep your return date to yourself

Give yourself time to get back into work mode, says Melanie Fish, global PR manager for Expedia Group Brands

Fish says she likes to “keep it a secret that I’m back for as long as possible. active until I caught up with what happened last week.”

“Just because I’m back in the office at 8 a.m. on Monday after a few days off doesn’t mean people need me at 8 a.m. on Monday,” she said.

Having a vacation-responsible buddy

Lance B. Holton