Enjoy the break, you’ve earned it

Holiday – a time when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what they want, such as travel or relax (Source: Cambridge Dictionary).

We all know it is important to take a break from work, yet with the speed in which the world is digitally transforming, it is also getting harder to switch off from the workplace to make this easier. With wi-fi and data connections making it very low cost to stay connected around the world, we no longer have the barriers in place that used to make us totally uncontactable.

Rest and recuperation are becoming more and more important to the busy worker. A study by researchers at the University of California-San Diego, believes that people are now inundated with the equivalent of 34GB of information every day.

This information overload means that it is necessary to find a way to relax and avoid burnout. Liken it to a car or a home computer. If you leave it running and keep putting it through its paces, then it won’t take long before it starts falling apart, crashes or just totally gives up the ghost.

I am a big supporter of switching off (I have been known to change email passwords of employees who can’t resist the urge of responding to emails from their sun loungers) and with considerate planning, then business does not need to suffer. Having just come back from a week away where I did switch off, it was pleasant to return and find a fully functioning and normal business, I didn’t have stacks of work to come back to and no irate customers asking where I was.

How can you break the email habit?

  1. Make sure your colleagues know you are away and that you won’t be answering any emails or phone calls. Direct them to someone else in the organisation that they can speak to in your absence. Ensure that person has means to get hold of you if there is an emergency or something really urgent (e.g. a personal phone number).

  2. Advise your key clients and any clients that you are currently working with who might see your holiday as unexpected. They will understand. Provide them with a colleague’s contact details.

  3. If necessary, consider forwarding your emails to a colleague with an auto-direct which means that someone will see the incoming emails and can deal with them. This might mean doubling someone else’s workload so think about if it does need to be done at all.

  4. Set an Out of Office email notice that is clear:

    Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office on annual leave and will return on the 15th August. I will not be reading emails and this email is not being monitored in my absence. If your query is urgent then please call [office telephone number] or email [office email]. Otherwise, I will return your email when I am back.

    Or

    Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office on annual leave and will return on the 15th August. I will not be reading emails and this email has been forwarded to a colleague who will respond.

  5. Set a voicemail on your telephone that is similar to the above.

  6. If you have a work telephone, then leave it at home. Your colleagues know how to contact you if there is an emergency.

  7. If you use your personal work phone to have access to work email, telephone, messaging or chat apps then switch off notifications. This is key, because even if you set yourself a target of not opening emails, getting ping notifications every five minutes is going to make you anxious. It will also save you a significant amount of battery with push notifications turned off, useful if you are travelling and want your device to last longer.

  8. If you do need/want to keep an eye on things, then try and limit yourself to logging in once a day. Possibly the morning so that you can spend the rest of the day relaxing. If you check them in the evening then it may affect your sleep that night!

  9. When you are back at work – remember to switch your 'out of office' off and change your voicemail.

Through careful planning and clear communication to those contacting you, then you should find your inbox is pretty low when you get back. Once someone has seen your out of office or heard your voicemail, they should know not to send you further communications and will wait until you return. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you could try the approach one of my clients uses:

I am currently on annual leave & will return on the 3rd August 2018. Your e-mail will be deleted unread, but if it's important then please contact the office on [office telephone number] or resend the e-mail on or after the 3rd August.
Many thanks.

Enjoy the break, you’ve earned it.

About the author

Tom is a Director at RWA. He has built a team of professionals that continue to deliver outstanding service and develop innovative solutions for our clients. Passionate about change and developing sustainable futures, Tom is a transformational leader who was a winner at the Leading Wales Awards in 2014 and in the same year received a Distinction from Cardiff Metropolitan University for his Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership. As well as his work leading the RWA team, Tom continues to work in the local Welsh community helping business start-ups, charities and enterprise facilitation initiatives.

Tom Wood

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