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The proliferation of digital devices means that we’re constantly connected to the office, wherever we are. It can become difficult to switch off from work.
Whether it’s a two week holiday or a twenty minute respite at work, taking a break and disconnecting from all things work-related and digital has a number of important benefits.
According to a survey conducted by the Chartered Management Institute, only half of UK managers booked a summer holiday this year, while 35 percent put their annual holiday plans on hold. An entire 69 percent of those not taking a holiday cited their workload as a reason why.
Even for those taking some time off, 12 percent planned to check their email daily, 19 percent said they would check their mail most days and 26 percent planned to check at least once or twice a week.
Furthermore, holiday time led to people putting in extra hours of work prior to taking leave: 25 percent of those surveyed said that they worked an extra eight hours the week before their holiday.
In the U.S., the situation is the same: 61 percent of employees said that they planned to work during their break. Thirty eight percent planned to spend time reading emails, 32 percent said they would access work-related documents whilst on holiday, 30 percent planned to take work phone calls and 20 percent would complete work tasks if asked by a colleague, boss or client.
The importance of a well-rested employee
Although it may seem like a good thing from a productivity point of view, having employees constantly working can do your business more harm than good.
The point of taking leave is for employees to rest, relax and come back to work energized and revitalized. Continuing to work over their holiday means that workers don’t get a chance to fully recover from the stresses of office life, and in the end, productivity and creativity can suffer when drained employees come back to work. This is, of course, not even taking into account the health benefits of a holiday: stress and exhaustion take an incredible toll on the body, and overworked employees may end up taking more sick leave throughout the year. Finally, allowing employees time off to relax can result in an all-round boost for office morale.
Tips for a digital detox
- Respect other people’s schedules. Don’t bother them with emails or calls when they have taken time off, unless the matter is extremely urgent.
- Prioritize your workload. If you absolutely have to work on your holiday, spend time on the important tasks only, and leave less important matters for when you are back in the office.
- Set up an auto-reply on your email. This way, people who send you messages are alerted to the fact that you are on holiday. Provide a contact number for someone else in the office, who can be contacted if the issue is urgent.
- Tell your colleagues that you’ll be going away. This may seem obvious, but alert others in your office that you are going on holiday. Sort out the most important projects before you leave, and let colleagues know that you will be unlikely to reply to work communications while away.
- Avoid constantly checking your devices while on holiday. If you absolutely have to remain connected to work whilst on holiday, allocate a specific day (or certain time of day) when you will check and reply to emails, text messages and missed calls.
Indeed, many holiday retreats all over the world are now offering “digital detoxes,” where there is no Wi-Fi signal and visitors are encouraged to hand over their electronic devices. For example, St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean offers special digital detox packages, whilst a Californian company named “The Digital Detox” organizes retreats and getaways focused on meditation, relaxation and gadget-free time away.
Daily work breaks
It’s not just time off work that’s important: taking a proper lunch break every day is also beneficial. And by “proper” lunch break, we mean moving away from your desk or your office cubicle. According to Forbes, incorporating an hour or half hour break into your daily work schedule can boost one’s energy levels, improve your mood and provide additional morning motivation as you work towards your break.