Switch off for your summer break

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We have been hearing a lot about the negative effects of personal and workplace stress, especially in the last few months with everyone having to work and lead differently. We all know about the importance of why and how you need to switch off during your annual leave, here are some reminders from ACEVO’s director of leadership and governance Jenny Berry.

What the statistics show

It is acknowledged that the UK has a culture of long working hours compared to most other European countries. Surveys also show that UK workers don’t use their holiday entitlement effectively to recharge their batteries. These surveys have also shown that over one-third of UK workers do work while on holiday, and out of those who work while on leave 80% frequently respond to emails and almost half take phone calls. Over two-thirds of respondents admit to checking email/phone messages at least once a day, if not more.

Negative effects of non-disengagement from work

Health experts say that a regular holiday is necessary to combat the stresses of work and our faster lifestyles. Poor disengagement from work has been associated with a number of health problems, including: cardiovascular disease, fatigue, negative mood, and sleep disturbance. Our bodies need proper rest and relaxation in order to repair, recuperate and grow.

Tips for switching off

Before you go

  • Plan for your absence: delegate your responsibilities to one or more of your team. Put together a comprehensive handover a week or two before you leave, giving colleagues clear guidelines on tasks they need to complete.
  • Organise the week before: allocate some time the week before your holiday to take care of everything that needs to be covered but remember that you don’t have to/cannot finish everything.
  • Brief your chair of the arrangements you have made during your leave, so they know everything is covered.
  • Prepare your email. Try to leave the office on your last day with an empty inbox – if that’s not possible, organise outstanding emails into folders and set yourself a reminder for when you’re back.
  • Ask staff not to contact you unless there is a real emergency. Outline to your staff what constitutes a “real emergency” before you go.
  • Communicate to key contacts that you will be away in an attempt to limit the number of messages you receive.
  • Switch on the out of office on your email stating that emails and calls will be managed by X and you will be available after X date (make this a couple of days after your actual return and leave it on a couple of days when you return to work to get back up to speed). Often briefings with your team will mean you can just delete certain emails without having to open or read them.
  • Switch on voicemail too.
  • Try not taking your laptop or phone on holiday (if you are going away). Leave a contact number for emergencies instead.

While you’re on leave

  • If you find yourself thinking about work, do something active and/or interesting every day to take your mind off it. Learn a new skill, practice mindfulness or meditation.
  • If you still can’t switch off then try creative writing expert Julia Cameron’s tip of creating “morning pages”. Write three pages freehand, un-edited of all your thoughts and worries first thing in the morning before doing anything else. Once off your chest, you can forget these for the day.
  • If you can and have access to, get a treatment of some sort to reduce the physical stress that your body has been holding such as a massage, facial, reflexology, hot stone therapy, a sauna etc.
  • Allow yourself time to reflect, to review your life and appreciate and celebrate all that you’ve achieved and you’re grateful for. Buy a note pad specifically to write thoughts and feelings in. See this link for tips on using diary-writing for stress relief.
  • Regain your fitness by walking more, swimming, cycling, chasing the kids around, playing sports etc. Regular movement during the day boosts your circulation and gets your blood pumping which ups your heart rate and immune system.
  • Regain your enthusiasm by visiting new places and trying new activities. Seeing and doing the same thing every day reduces the mind’s efficiency so new stimulants ensure you can operate at your peak when you get back.
  • Go to bed earlier and/or rise later and take time to relax.
  • Reconnect with loved ones. Working long hours takes a toll on personal relationships. Revel in being able to take time to connect one-on-one away from distractions and see new things or try new activities together.

Do you have any additional suggestions and tips? Is there anything that worked for you? Please leave a comment!

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