Live Well

Stephanie HowesWhat makes a great vacation spot?
By Stephanie Howes, Interim associate dean, Faculty of Health

Are you looking for stunning oceanic views? Maybe it’s the location's historical significance or fine restaurants that draw you. If you have children, perhaps available activities are key.

But if you judge a prime holiday destination by the presence of wi-fi, it’s time to revisit the purpose of a vacation.

We all work hard for those few weeks a year when we don’t have anywhere to go, or anyplace to be, or anyone to report to. Vacations are designed to refresh and recharge, and if we are always connected – not just to work, but to our social media and online professional networks – it’s difficult to step away and find the necessary perspective a vacation aims to provide.

According to a 2012 survey of 1,600 American professionals by the non-profit Pew Research Centre:

  • 70 % check their smartphone within an hour of getting up.
  • 56 % check their phone within an hour of going to sleep.
  • 48 % check over the weekend, including on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • 51 % check continuously during vacation.
  • 44 % said they would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and couldn't replace it for a week.

Since this study was done in 2012, you can imagine the possible growth in those numbers for 2014, with smartphones ever more prevalent.

Many of us have jobs that require us to remain connected; I get it. But all the time? Really?

Here’s my advice for putting the “vacate” back into “vacation.”

  • If you absolutely cannot disconnect yourself, check your email and any other necessary online accounts only once a day and dedicate a specific amount of time to replies.
  • Only reply to urgent or necessary messages.
  • Ensure your auto reply message advises you will not have reliable access to your email.
  • Leave the phone number of your hotel on your auto reply; this will increase your comfort level – if something is urgent, someone will call.
  • And finally, enjoy your vacation! We are all better employees if we return to work refreshed; a break ensures we are more productive and effective in our careers.