As we settle in to the new year, most of us have been asking and answering the “how was your break?” question continually for the past couple of weeks. For some, the response is positive: “fantastic, I feel totally refreshed!”. However, in contrast, some find it very difficult to switch off and put the work laptop or phone away during periods of leave.
Thanks to our big wide world of technology, the ease of access to email, text and social media means that people are now contactable 24/7, no matter where they are. This results in nearly 73% of Australians (and rising) continuing to work in some way while they are on leave. While commitment to our roles is admirable, time to unwind is extremely important for mental well-being. We should all come back from a break feeling de-stressed, refreshed and re-invigorated.
So, how can we have a true break from work and switch off what might be awaiting for you when you return?
- Give your team notice. Ensure that people you work with, and people you deal with externally, are aware that you are going on leave and know when you will be back so that they can support you throughout this period
- If you know that you’re going to spend half of your time off thinking about the mountain of work that will await you when you get back, aim get through as much of that mountain as you can before you leave
- Consider issues that may arise in your absence and ensure you are comfortable that someone else in your team is prepared and capable to handle them
- Set up an informative out-of-office message and outgoing voicemail message
- Keep a few clear days (what we like to call “white space” in our calendars) before you head off on leave to deal with last-minute issues that you may not have anticipated
- Organise yourself so that you have the items requiring your top attention ready to deal with as soon as you return.
- If you can’t unplug altogether, let your team know that you’ll check voicemail or email once a day (for example) and will only respond to messages labeled as urgent.
Once you walk out of the workplace, switch off!
- Take your work email off your phone
- Resist any temptation to check in to make sure you’re not needed (trust your team have your back!)
Work on pulling yourself up on any feelings of guilt about being away. Your holiday entitlement is as much a part of your package as your salary. Not taking a holiday is exactly like taking a pay cut! By not relaxing at all, you’re putting yourself at risk of burnout.
If all of the above seems just IMPOSSIBLE for you (it isn’t!), head to a retreat in a regional area where contact with the outside world is either not possible, forbidden or restricted.