Finding the holiday switch
Summer is on the horizon, the days are warmer, the nights are shorter, and restrictions are slowly being lifted. At this time of year, the conversation usually turns to holiday plans, “Where are you heading off to?”. This year is slightly different and although the future may be looking a bit brighter and freedom is in the air, trips abroad aren’t quite within our reach just yet and many of us will be holidaying at home.
A staycation in Ireland will of course be lovely. We are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and although the weather may be a bit iffy at times, there’s plenty to see and do. However, holidaying at home does raise some other issues. Mainly work and walking away from it.
Switching off from work can be difficult, but when you step onto the plane or drive onto the ferry, there is a subtle switch that helps you get into holiday mode. You are out of the country, you are ‘away’. You are less likely to be disturbed and less inclined to think about work. The lack of geographical space between a holiday abroad and a holiday at home should not make any difference, you are off work, it doesn’t matter how far away you are, holiday days are holiday days and work should not encroach on them. But without that distance and that lift into the air or across the water it might feel harder to let go. With no weight restrictions on your luggage, it’s easy to say, “I’ll just take my laptop” and with no time difference it’s simple to “just check in”.
Holidays are a vital part of life, not just so that you can sightsee, but so that you can give your brain a break and reconnect with family and friends. Switching off, recharging, relaxing, these are all ways for you to have a ‘time out’ from life, to realign yourself with what is important and check-in on your own contentment and happiness. It is a time to put your own self-care and your relationships first. It is impossible to do that if work is still inhabiting a space in the back of your mind. Not only that, but holidays are essential for your health. In 2018 a study by the University of Helsinki found that those who take fewer than three weeks of annual leave a year are more likely to die young than those who take more.
Like every employee, you are entitled to a certain number of holiday days every year. On those days your company should not be contacting you, pestering you with questions or organising meetings ‘for when you’re back’. If your company is guilty of this then it is time to have a word with HR. But even if your company follows the rules, it can be very difficult to simply walk away, after all you spend most of your life worrying about work and you know it’s there waiting for you when you get back. If you are someone who likes to nip problems in the bud, or likes to stay a step ahead in business, letting go can be very difficult.
So how do you ensure that you get the most from your holiday? That your brain gets the ‘off’ time it deserves, that your family gets your undivided attention, and you get a proper break? There are a number of things you can do to help flip your switch to off, not least leaving your laptop at home.
Here’s a few that we think could work wonders.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
You’ve booked your holiday in advance, so prepare for it in advance. Inform and remind your colleagues of the dates you will be away and let them know that they will need to bring any issues to your attention before you go. Create a comprehensive handover, if someone else is taking over your responsibilities when you are gone, give them details of the task, a short history, if necessary, and a ‘to-do’ list of items that need to be completed. Give it to them in advance so that they can come to you with any questions before you leave. It’s much easier to walk away if you know that your work is in good hands.
Get rid of the guilt
A holiday is not a guilty pleasure, it’s not a favour from your boss. It’s time you are entitled to and time you need. So, remind yourself why you booked this holiday, remember how hard you work and tell yourself how much you deserve it. Because believe me you do.
Set up your out of office
Let clients and colleagues know you are away with an out of office mail. Redirect them to a colleague who will help them, so that their request doesn’t sit there waiting for you to return.
Mute your work email on your phone or switch it off, so that you won’t be tempted to check in. If you have a shared calendar, log out of it. Leave your laptop at home. If you are tempted to check in, stop and take a minute to think about what you are doing. You will check your mail, (just a quick look) but if you see an issue are you going to solve it? (If you are not then why are you checking?) Are you in a position where you can do anything about it? (No? Well then it will simply frustrate you) Is there someone else in the office who has been tasked with handling it? (Why are you undermining them?) Remember if you communicate with work while on holidays, it will be assumed that you are okay with staying in touch. You are hanging up an ‘open for business’ sign, which gives your boss, colleagues or clients permission to contact you. So do yourself a favour, don’t check in.
Did you know it takes most of us 46 hours to get into ‘holiday mode’? That’s two days into your holiday (that might only be a few days long). So how can you make yourself relax? Well, you can’t and worrying about not being relaxed is not very helpful. What you can do is ease yourself in gently. Start your holiday with a ‘preparation day’ if possible, use the day before you leave to do those last-minute chores or tasks and take the time to switch your mind from full throttle to a more sedate pace. Don’t over-think things, don’t put pressure on yourself to make this ‘the best holiday’, just enjoy it as it happens. Try to live in the moment, not through the camera on your phone. This time isn’t about posting perfect pictures on social media, it’s about appreciating where you are and who you are with. Pace yourself and try to accept doing nothing. We spend our lives running around with a full to-do list. So don’t pack your holiday itinerary with a full list of places to go and things to see, give yourself time to just do nothing.
Whether you plan to holiday in Ireland or further afield this Summer, rejoice in the fact that we have reached a point where travelling outside 5k from our homes is possible. Sit back and enjoy yourself, you’ve earned it.