With the summer holidays almost upon us, let’s consider how to make the most of our break from work.
By that, I mean taking a real break and unplugging and disconnecting from work, to revive and refresh. No checking emails, taking calls or sending messages. No thinking about work piling up or jobs that can’t wait.
For many people, it’s getting harder and harder to take an actual break from work. These days, technology enables us to work from anywhere, with workloads and performance expectations set high. Emails are instantly accessed any time of day and night, and with that people expect instant responses. We’ve become a very responsive society and people have come to expect this. It’s almost part of customers’ expectation of excellent service these days.
But is it healthy? When you consider the extent of stress, burnout and mental health issues in the workplace, you have to wonder what we are actually doing to ourselves.
The idea of a holiday is to take a break from work, recharge spend quality time doing the things you enjoy, rest, re-focus and come back to work revived. Focus on other aspects of your life so that when you go back to work you feel refreshed and energised. Put simply, staying productive in the office requires spending time away from it. While most of us recognise that, the hard part is letting go and actually doing it. The fear of missing out by switching off is real.
One of my clients has recently implemented an “unplugged policy” around taking leave. They want staff to make the most of their time away from work by taking a real break, so that when they’re at work they are healthier, perform better and are ultimately more productive. When anyone in the organisation takes leave, they are encouraged to totally cut off from work – to literally unplug.
Here are some of the things that their policy includes;
When an employee is away on leave, all of their emails are deleted. Yes, deleted. The holidaymaker turns on an out of office email reply which explains the situation. The theory is that if the email is urgent, the emailer will contact the nominated backup person and they’ll deal with it. If it’s not urgent, the emailer can follow up when the holidaymaker returns. The out of office message stays on for an extra day after the employee returns from leave to ensure they get a chance to get back into work mode and catch up.
Deleting emails seems extreme, but it makes sense. It means the holidaymaker doesn’t return to a full inbox and have to spend the next few days dealing with it. Urgent things don’t get held up while they’re away because the backup person is empowered to deal with them, and there’s no worrying about emails. And because the messaging is pitched in the right way, customers aren’t annoyed at the inconvenience.
A policy like this allows for a real cultural shift and flows through to many other aspects of the business such as employee engagement and retention, and even their employer brand. Certainly, the idea of unplugging isn’t a new concept – some of the larger corporates switch off their servers at a certain time in the evening to ensure e-mails are held over, in an attempt to ease the temptation of working late and from home.
It takes a certain amount of bravery to implement policies such as these in an age where technology is enabling and allowing us to work in a more flexible manner. Clearly, we are not managing this well personally, hence the need for company policies to encourage the process.
It’s so important for people to take time off that it can give your business a competitive edge. Research shows that proper rest periods improve wellness, reduce stress and increase productivity. Holiday periods, particularly over Christmas and the New Year, are also a time for reflection, providing an opportunity to reflect on the past year and make plans and set goals for the year ahead.
Take some time to consider your own business operations and how you can encourage your staff – and yourself – to take some real time out from the business these holidays.