Jul 20 / Helen Bryant

Vacation Ready? 5 Tips to Help You Disconnect From Work

The holidays are nearly here in here. In the UK in less than two weeks, all the kids are going to be off school. For many people, they will be doing be having their summer holiday or summer breaks, even if they're not going away, they are having time off work. And we look forward to it so much. But the question is, do we really switch off?

Or, even though we're not physically at work, are we still doing emails? Are we still taking calls? Are we still half in half out? For many managers, I know this is the case. It is very difficult to let go fully. Much of our identity at work is tied to being there. Maybe we tend to think," oh, they won't possibly manage without me", but there's a cost of not having that downtime. It means that we are in a permanent state of stress and activity connected with work. Work is so busy, so full on for so many of us most of the time. And we must take that time to recharge and, importantly, connect with our family, our friends, and our loved ones, and create memories and moments that add value to our life.

But it's much easier said than done. So in this blog, I share five tips that will help you fully disconnect and enjoy that holiday time.
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Read the transcript here

I've been both the person who's not letting their work go, and the person whose partner is not letting their work go. I have definitely been to amazing holiday resorts with a beautiful beach and gorgeous sea walking along that beach and chatting on my phone about a work issue.

I have also been playing with my children in a swimming pool while my husband is walking up and down on a call. So we've both done it to each other. And I know it irritates both of us, but I want you to think about that because you may think it's just about you and it doesn't matter, but not being present has a cost on those that we should be present with. Following these five tips, I think is about creating high value in our lives, as well as just letting work go.

Step 1 Prepare well

You can't just arrive at your holiday leave and off. You have to prepare, as a manager this will be in the two week run up to when you are away. Talk with your team, and  your colleagues.

Who are you delegating your work to? And are you communicating very clearly what your expectations are?. That would include what decision-making responsibilities are you delegating?

Use your one-to-ones and your discussions with your colleagues, so that you are laying the foundations so that you can fully let go. Also, share the exceptions what would you want to be contacted about, fig anything. be clear that otherwise, you expect your team to crack on.
It is important to create the expectations and the boundaries so that as you prepare you are, everybody is super clear.

On your personal work tasks and activities, try and get it to a point where you leave it well. It's always annoying when suddenly you are waiting on a piece of work, and you find out that the ores person is on holiday. It annoys everybody. So make sure you are getting your work to the necessary milestone or managing the expectations that go with that, with a plan of action in place of what will happen to keep the work moving forward.

Step 2
  Use your Out of Office to communicate clearly

The second thing to do once you have communicated with your team is set your Out of Office on Email and Teams/Slack so that if anybody reaches out to you when you're away, they are crystal clear on who to reach out to for help, and their expectations are managed, and importantly they don't keep bothering you.

The detail to include is:
  • The dates of when you are leaving and when you'll be back, 

  • Who should they contact if an issue is urgent? What are their email and phone numbers so make it easy for them to contact the person to help them. 
  • If it's not important state that you will catch up with them on your return, 
  • keep the tone friendly so that they realize it's a person and not just some automatic, automated holiday reply. 

Make sure you update your Email and Your Teams/Slack profile settings with a clear Out of Office.

On MS Teams do the following:
  • Go to your profile picture at the top of Teams and select Set-status message.
  • Select Schedule out of office at the bottom of the options.
  • From the screen that appears, turn on the toggle next to Turn on automatic replies.
  • Type an out-of-office message in the text box.

Communicate clearly to others that you are away and share your plan to help them, and they are less likely to contact you via email or direct message.
Step 3  Switch off...with intention

The next step is when you go on holiday, switch off. And that sounds so easy, doesn't it? Just switch off, but as we all know, it's much harder than that. It normally takes me a few days just to calm down and relax.

Avoid your phone. The nearer we are to them, the harder it is to leave the office alone. A quick look on Instagram or Twitter rapidly leads to jumping back into our email and checking work again.

We have to be very deliberate. There's an intentionality to it. Work out how are you going to manage this time? How are you going to create habits that allow you to be fully present with your family or friends on this vacation and tell someone.

The act of telling another person can make a big 
difference. For example, if I were to tell my husband, it would make me more accountable for leaving my phone alone. When I go on holiday, I am not going to go on Twitter because I know Twitter is too short a link for me to get back to working on my phone. Twitter has to go. By telling my husband this, I know that if he sees me going into some Twitter rabbit hole of nonsense, he'll say, "I thought you weren't doing Twitter", and then I'll remember and stop. More importantly, I don't want him to catch me. Accountability to an intention or goal creates change

Share what you are trying to do with your partner. Be deliberate with them in saying that you want this holiday to be special, set it up well, and then it'll help you maintain the habits of not slipping back into work.

Step 4  Set clear boundaries if you choose to re-engage

If however, you think you can't fully leave your email and work completely set clear boundaries on what you will do. Many people I know, do feel that pressure.  For example, you might say I'm just going to skim my email for 20 minutes, every other day and then the rest of the time, I am not looking.

Don't reply to all the bog standard emails just respond to the urgent ones. You've delegated the work. You have to let people get on. They don't appreciate you swooping back in from your holiday to give direction.

 If you've empowered people and delegated them, let them get on. Only reply and engage with the important things that really do need your personal attention and then put your phone away. As a manager and leader, you set the cultural tone for your team, if you work on your holiday they may feel pressure to work on theirs. Role model the behaviours you want to see.

Step 5  Pre-schedule your Catch-Up time on your return

Preschedule catch-up time before you go on holiday. Put it in your diary, don't have it on your to-do list. Schedule the time when you going to catch up with your email. When are you having your One to Ones? Who have you got to talk to? 

A holiday catch-up shouldn't take any longer than the first week back to see all the key people. But if everybody already has that in that diary already, who will find that you are back on it so much faster. And, it makes your return that much easier to do. You're not chasing people or doing it in an ad hoc manner. This makes a really big difference.

Mindset Tip  Create memories

There's also a mindset thought that might help you follow it through. I don't think anybody gets to the end of their life and say, 'Gosh I'm so glad I cleared those emails whilst I was on holiday', but what they will say is 'I'm so glad I have those wonderful memories from my holidays with my family and friends.'

Being present and making that time work so that you have the best time will recharge you, and lay down memories for life. And if you don't need more of an incentive than that, I don't know what you need.

I'm off on holiday. I am going to the U.S to see my lovely sister and her family and I intend to have two full weeks off. Wish me luck with my Twitter abstinence. If you are about to go on holiday, I hope you have a brilliant time. Happy travels.
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Hi There!
I'm Helen Bryant

I'm a corporate trainer and coach. On a mission to share the valuable collaboration and leadership lessons to help you thrive in the new world of work.
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