The holiday season is fast approaching, and you’d love to take some time off to visit family. Plus, taking a break can be critical to your work performance. By unplugging from the office for a few days, you can return with a fresh perspective and renewed energy, which can boost your productivity and effectiveness on the job.
According to Executive Style, nearly three-quarters of Australians (73%) admitted in a survey to working while on holiday, more than double the global average (33%).
So many of us yearn for time off work to spend with family and friends, but when it comes to being away from the office, switching off is hard to do. You consider the stack of work on your desk and how short-staffed your department is, a holiday break is anything but a relaxing thought.
Is it possible to get away without worrying about how far behind you’ll be when you return?
Stress can easily creep in when work starts to dominate your life, but even worse when you can’t switch off when you take leave.
Here are a few tips on how to relax as quickly as possible to enjoy your well-earned holiday break.
1. Create an action plan
Consider all of the potential projects that may need attention while you’re away. Write down an instruction sheet for those serving as backup so they know what to expect and how to handle specific situations.
Also provide the names and numbers of contacts who might need to be reached. If you think someone will need to access your computer or other systems in your absence, speak with your manager or IT support to determine the best way to share security passwords with the person.
In addition, try to plan ahead for any potential challenges that may arise while taking a holiday break and how they might be resolved or avoided entirely.
2. Spread the word
Give plenty of notice to key contacts that you will be out of the office and let them know who has been assigned as your backup.
The more prepared people are for your absence, the less likely you will receive last-minute requests on the way out the door.
3. Wrap up your work commitments
Do your best to keep the last few days before your holiday break free from meetings and non-essential activities. That way, you can concentrate fully on cleaning out your inbox, wrapping up projects and tackling any final assignments.
It sounds obvious, but some workers find it hard to complete every task before breaking up for holidays. Make it your goal to wrap up loose ends before your last day, informing colleagues where you’re at with projects then switching on your out-of-office reply on all devices.
It might mean making a checklist a few weeks before the holidays start or allocating a certain period of wrap-up time each day in the lead-up to your break, but it will be worth it.
4. Prepare for your return
Remember that a key part of vacation preparation is getting ready for the days when you’ll be returning to work. Consider which projects will need immediate attention when you arrive.
Also allocate time to check messages and meet with your boss and anyone who served as a backup in your absence so you can get updates on what you missed.
5. Step away from the smartphone
That’s right, put it down. Switch it off. Give it to your children. Whatever it takes, try not to refresh that inbox feed for as long as possible. Emergencies notwithstanding, there should be no reason to keep checking your work email over the holiday break. It’s the time when 99 per cent of businesses are in their slowest, quietest mode of the year, so embrace it!
One of the challenges is that most of us use our smartphones to keep in touch with not only our work life, but our private life too, so it’s a slippery slope. Once you’re using your phone, it’s hard to switch the work mode off altogether, so for some people not using it at all is the best option.
If necessary, share your phone number with someone who will use it only in a true emergency - not when an employee has trouble remembering the time-saving Excel tip you shared three weeks ago. Also, resist checking in with the office. The more you stay in touch with work, the less of a break you will have. If you must check email and voice mail, limit it to once a day.
Is your work taking over your life? Take some inspiration from our "How to kill stress with work-life balance strategies".
Bonus tip - Go bush
Last resort? If you REALLY want to step away, head to a health spa or retreat in a regional area where smartphones, digital devices and contact with the outside world is either forbidden or restricted. That way, you have no choice.
Get into the swing of relaxing by doing yoga, bush walking and cooking all in an environment that’s completely removed from your everyday life.
Enjoy your holiday break
By not relaxing at all, you’re putting yourself at risk of burnout, so do yourself and your family a favour. Put work to bed while you have the opportunity.
In your older years, it’s unlikely you’ll even remember all those hours you put in at work.
So enjoy your holiday break. You’ll likely be more grateful for the time you spent with your nearest and dearest.