You’ve booked your flights, packed your sun cream and gleefully set your ‘Out of Office’, but how well are you able to truly switch off when you’re on holiday? In a culture of digital accessibility with the expectation of a rapid response, most of us feel the pressure to be readily available in all parts of our lives, even when we’re supposed to be taking a break from it all.
A recent poll of British workers (by Teletext Holidays) reveals a ‘window of relaxation’ which starts two days into a two-week holiday and ends three days before you travel home. During these five days, we’re unable to detach from the stresses and demands of our work and life. It might not come as a surprise to hear that four in 10 people admit they respond to emails and take calls regularly throughout their break (with some logging in to their emails up to six times a day and taking eight phone calls during their two weeks away from the office). One in 20 people check their emails as soon as they wake up!
As if that’s not bad enough, the poll reveals that people are putting in two and a half hours extra work a day in the lead up to going on holiday in a desperate attempt to mitigate the backlog of work to wade through on their return. So not only are we unable to switch off while we’re away, we’re working ourselves into the ground before we even leave the office.
But there is some good news. There are realistic and manageable things you can do to give yourself a better chance to leave the office well and truly behind you.
1. Set firm boundaries (and stick to them!)
Make sure everyone you work with (internally and otherwise) knows you are going to be on leave and won’t be contactable at all during this time. Set your voicemail and ‘Out of Office’ message to reflect this and signpost to a colleague for any urgent queries.
2. Delegate or defer
Run through your ‘to do’ list and delegate any tasks that a colleague could cover, and assign new post-holiday timescales to the others. Make sure everyone who needs to know is aware of the new plans so expectations can be managed.
3. Switch off work-related social media
People are often more able to compartmentalise their work emails, but find it difficult to draw the same line in the sand (excuse the beach pun!) with their professional use of social media. You should really disable your access entirely, but if that’s too difficult then at least change your notification settings and severely limit your usage. There will be nothing happening on these channels that you can’t miss!
4. Take fewer, longer holidays
Taking a two-week break is better than two seven-day holidays, so we can maximise those restful days in the middle of a longer break when we’re more able to distance ourselves from our work world. So, if you can, try to plan for longer, fewer breaks through the year (even if you’re only actually away from home for a few days of that time).
5. Place equal value on your holiday time
Going on holiday isn’t just ‘not being at work’, it’s an important activity in its own right. It’s a chance to step away from the usual routine, to connect with family and friends (or to take a break from them too!), to recalibrate and to focus on your personal priorities. Your holiday entitlement is as much part of your employee package as your salary or your pension. Not taking holiday (or not switching off while you’re on one) is essentially like taking a pay cut.
Give yourself permission to enjoy your holiday and you’ll come back rested, refreshed and recharged – it’s win win for everyone!