Holidays are not for working

Holidays are not for working

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Summary

Increasingly ‘out of the office’ does not mean ‘not working’. Learn in this article why this is a problem, why don’t people switch off from work and what you can do in order to disconnect for a while.

Most of Europe seems to be out of the office sometime, during the summer or Christmas, for example. But increasingly ‘out of the office’ does not mean ‘not working’. And I think that’s both a shame and a problem.

Why’s it a problem?

I wrote another article about how important regular holiday time is, in driving high performance at work (there’s another link to that at the bottom of this). That’s particularly true of careers like consulting which routinely require extremely long hours. That got me thinking. So many people seem to be on their work emails even when they are ‘on holiday’. Given everything is online nowadays and thereby physical office colocation is less needed than ever, are you even on holiday at all, if you’re jumping in and out of your work i-phone inbox?

For me, the answer is ‘no’. Certainly, it’s at least a ‘not really’. Have you ever tried leaving your phone at home while you head away? Try it. You’ll find that you reach a totally different level of relaxation. And guess what?! You might come back to work feeling even more relaxed and energised.

So why do people not switch off from work? And what can you do to disconnect for a while?

The why is pretty simple but it’s a hard nut to crack. I’d say that the primary driver is that your colleagues do it, so you feel you should too. At the nub of that is what the most senior colleagues do. If they’re firing out emails 24/7 & 365 days a year, that more often than not permeates down through the whole organisation. It takes a lot of guts to break that mould. And when you become increasingly senior, guess what you’ll be in the habit of doing too? Senior leaders take note – however big the team below you!

The other reason comes down to trust. You trusting that the team and business can manage fine without you. If you plan well before you go, there’s no reason to think that this won’t be the case.

But what if it’s not the case? How would you know?

A few people I’ve spoken to said they prefer to keep in touch so they know nothing has gone wrong in their absence. They’d only worry if they didn’t check. I think this leads to a nervous state and compulsive checking so – if that sounds like you – the best 2 tips I have for you are:

  • Tell your team that you’re going away and want (need?!) to switch off totally. If they REALLY need you, they may either text your personal phone (by the way, I’d recommend keeping your personal and work phones separate) or email a specific address. The best I’ve come across is youaredisturbingmyvacation@… Implement either of these and it will make people think twice. I promise you’ll get no (or very very few) messages.
  • If you really feel the need to check in, don’t do it all the time and from your personal phone. Do it routinely i.e., at the same time every other day. And try to do it from a different device (laptop, work phone, etc) so you’re not tempted to load up emails every time you reach for your personal phone.

Why does all this matter?

Well, the vast majority of us work to live. And in life, we all really look forward to vacations. So allow yourself to make the very most of them. A decent holiday also supports decent working performance. So it makes sense for your business/employer/team/boss too. Happy holidays.

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