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Far and Away

How to put your vacation time to work

While the annual tradition of a major two-week vacation may still appeal to some, work-life experts are observing an increase in the number of people who use their time off in shorter increments, such as long weekends or mid-week breaks.

Breaking vacation time into minivacations is beneficial for both employers and employees, according to Susan W. Miller, career counselor and owner of California Career Services in Los Angeles.

"Taking several short vacations gives employees something to look forward to throughout the year and can be more renewing than one long vacation," she explains. "From an employer's point of view, particularly in a small business, several shorter vacations work better because an employee's absence from an office can be disruptive."

Another popular option is to break annual leave into one slightly longer vacation and a few shorter getaways, says Jerri L. Yates, Ph.D., an organization development specialist and career coach.

Even dipping into your vacation-time reservoir to take a single day off can be beneficial. "For some individuals, an eight-hour mental health day alone at home can work more wonders for their renewal than an entire week away with the family," Yates says. "For most folks, however, a week or more is best for truly removing oneself from workplace stress."

Get Away the Right Way
The best way to make the most of vacation time is to leave workplace responsibilities and worries behind. Try these suggestions to make the transition easier:

"Let everyone at work know about your vacation at least two weeks in advance," Yates advises. "That way, you aren't inundated on the day before you leave with pesky 'you have to do this for me before you go' requests."

Even though mobile phones and laptops make it easier than ever to check in with the workplace, avoid the temptation, Miller says. Contact with the office makes focusing on the tasks at hand―relaxing and having fun―difficult. For the same reason, tell only a few colleagues where you can be reached, and explain that you should only be contacted in an emergency.

Take time before you leave to prepare for your first day back in the office, so you won't be overwhelmed with all that you missed. And once you're back, schedule a meeting with your staff by midmorning in order to find out what items need your immediate attention.