Help Your Team Members Totally Unplug

And give the gift of a clean inbox upon their return.

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Do you ever feel like you can’t take off work? Or at least like you can never totally unplug from the office? I’ve been there, and I know the feeling. All too well.

In our company, each of us wears many hats, and we check in regularly to keep things running smoothly. In the past, we tended to check in even during vacation; nothing kept us totally away from the office.

Thankfully, that has changed. We’ve finally learned how to support each other in fully unplugging and taking real vacations. With the strategies below, we all feel fully covered and are able to take time off to be with our loved ones and care for ourselves.

  • Ensure coverage. A few days before scheduled vacation, walk through all open items and ensure appropriate coverage. This way, nothing falls through the cracks when you are out. And equally important, having coverage in place frees you from feeling a need to check in.
  • Compile one update email. Once a team member goes on vacation, start an email to send them upon their return. This will allow you to organize ideas and tasks and to summarize updates for them. When your colleague returns, they will find everything in one blessed email rather than having to wade through the usual swamp of messages. Also, if they are tempted to check in before returning, they will not see any emails they “think” they must respond to.
  • Do not copy on emails. If you were going to copy the person on any emails, don’t. Simply add your comments to the above list of updates.
  • Automated out-of-office email. Make a policy to have an out-of-office automated response that includes appropriate contacts. Personally, I include a recent tip I’ve written or an article I’ve contributed to such as “Why Employee Vacations Pay Off.”

The above strategy is super simple and extremely powerful in creating and maintaining a thriving organizational culture where team members feel supported. It wonderfully illustrates four of the nine transformative principles in my book Culture Infusion: provide intentional leadership, prioritize personal wellness, insist on a healthy work/life balance, and encourage team connection.

When my grandmother passed away recently, I was beyond thankful to have our time-away strategy in place. And when Lori, my newest hire, wrote the following after returning from vacation, I was overjoyed:
“As a new team member at Actualize Consulting, I didn’t know what to expect on my first day back from vacation, but I knew ‘re-entry’ was a real thing. I opened the welcome back email from my manager (Kerry Wekelo), and I was presented with a warm welcome and a list summarizing updates from the past week along with projects to attend to. I’ve read Kerry’s tips in articles and in her book Culture Infusion, but now I was experiencing and internalizing one of her actionable tips on a deeper level. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I felt a sense of calm come over me and ground itself in my core (which is the best most centered type of calm).”

This is powerful stuff. What would it take for your company to help its team members unplug and re-energize?

Below is a video on my vacation confession of how I was not following my own advice… and what happened once I finally did. 

Originally published at

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