I want to talk to you about holidays.
I’ve recently come back from a fabulous time in the US – I spent time in the countryside and then in one of my favourite cities, New York. The first part of the trip was in a gorgeous town called Hudson, in upstate NY which is about 2 hours from Manhattan. It’s a good place for New Yorkers to go to unwind for the weekend.
At breakfast one morning, I met a lovely woman who was doing just that. She has a very high powered job and we were talking about how with mobile phones and constant email access, it feels like there is no getting away from work anymore. She had left her office on Friday at 3pm and on Sunday morning she showed me her phone – in that time she had received 628 emails, mostly emails where she had been copied in by her colleagues.
We are a similar age and we reminisced about the good old days when we still worked hard and long hours but that when you went away on holiday, you didn’t hear about work until you returned, refreshed and raring to go again.
Whatever you do for a living, it’s really important to take time for yourself, away from the workplace. Sometimes, I do realise that, particularly if you are freelance or have your own business, the lines between work and play are blurred. However, there is a difference between work being a passion or it being a burden.
You may worry about being seen to take time off and then when you do, you feel that you should be in constant contact.
Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Manchester University says: “You may not want to work but you feel that you should check in. Then you find an email that needs answering and that’s it, you get sucked in. Today, staying in touch is triggered by insecurity and the need to feel valuable. Some see status in appearing to be a workaholic”.
He then adds “We have this crazy notion that we are indispensable and we are not, if you have a heart attack, the company will continue. It’s your family and friends that are indispensable.”
When you think of it like that, it shows you what is really important.
If you are planning to take some time off, here are some tips to ensure that you really do get some time away from it all – even if you haven’t actually gone away.
Tip No 1
Colleagues, bosses and clients will understand that you want (and need) to have time off. Once you have planned your dates, tell everybody that needs to know, well in advance, that you are going to be away. It’s less stressful to warn them, than for them to find out once you’ve gone.
Tip No 2
Before you go, finish as much work as you can and then leave an status update of what stage each of your projects is at. Arrange to delegate any work that needs to be done while you are away.
Tip No 3
Write an out of office email outlining your holiday dates. Give the name and contact details of the colleague(s) that will be covering your work. Do NOT put your mobile number in this email. If anybody needs to speak to you urgently, your number will easily be found.
Tip No 4
I’m not going to ask you to go cold turkey and not check your emails, but if you must check them while you are away, be strict with yourself.
Only check your messages once a day, ideally at the end of the day as in the morning you will be more inclined to engage and reply (although I appreciate you have to factor in time differences).
As the holiday goes on and you get into a more relaxed mood, try leaving the checking for a bit longer. Could you check every few days, maybe?
Tip No 5
If you have to respond, don’t respond with questions, give instructions. Otherwise you are encouraging the back and forth replies. This also allows your colleagues to progress the tasks rather than waiting to hear what to do.
Tip No 6
Try and get some perspective around this. You are not indispensable – while you are away people will cover for you. Just like you cover for them, when they go away. It doesn’t mean somebody is going to take your job because you have a holiday.
Tip No 7
If you find being on holiday stressful and want to check in with work all the time, maybe the problem isn’t your work? Maybe the issue is elsewhere, so perhaps you need to ask yourself some questions about how happy you are in your personal life.
Tip No 8
When you are on holiday, you owe it to yourself and your family and friends to be present and to live in the moment. So, relax and enjoy yourself!