The death of the out of office

It is vital that we switch off the smart way when we head off on holiday.

By Ryan O’Reilly Performance coach

IS THE OUT-OF-OFFICE function now defunct? Do we actually switch off properly while on holiday or are we excusing checking and replying to emails when on planned time off as the new norm?

Is the “this is just what we do” or the “I’ll just need to check emails” line that we throw out to our spouses or friends really just masking the reality that we are afraid we will miss out on something?

The fear of missing out is real. Our devices sitting close by, just in case. Or even worse, being available on vacation is part of our unwritten culture at work. The company leaders don’t switch off, so why should we?

Rate yourself out of 10 now on how good you are at fully switching off – 10 being the Yoda of down time where nothing disturbs your time off, one being addicted to work and a phone is glued to your paw. Is there room for improvement?

Why is it vital to switch off fully? Well lots of reasons, such as the prevention of burnout – which the WHO categorised last month as an official condition rooted in “chronic workplace stress”.

Our brain doesn’t know the difference between work and home; it just knows stress or no stress.

Chronic stress makes our body act like it’s running away from a bear all the time – needless to say to be chronically stressed is not good for your mental and physical well-being. Long term, it is proven to be detrimental.

Simply, it is not sustainable and does catch up on us.

A second by-product of not switching off is the fact that our performance and productivity will suffer. Excuse the metaphor, but no one in any field can be the Duracell bunny and keep going without a proper recharge. 

Set clear boundaries 

Out of office means you are out of office, don’t break your own rules.

Gain buy in from your stakeholders and colleagues and plan before you leave. Set the expectation that you won’t be available if that’s possible.

If it’s not that easy, at the very least be hard to reach.

Finally, be kind to yourself, you have worked hard all year. You’ll be surprised what reaching a state of being really switched off can do for you.

Change the habit

Don’t just practice it on holiday; start the habit today and withdraw from your device 10 minutes more every day at home.

Have clear times to check email on a daily basis – stick to those times only as a means to getting more productive. To switch off fully on holiday, we need to be living it before we go otherwise we are fighting an uphill battle.

If you are the leader, set the pace for everyone else. The best way to look after those you lead is to be the example.

Encourage them to have a good plan before they leave on vacation and chastise them if they reply to email while on scheduled time off. Practice what you preach, it’s good for you too. 

Get busy living

If you have ever seen the film The Shawshank Redemption you will have heard the line, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Staying present with your family and friends is good for you. Having fun, relaxing and enjoying life two weeks every summer is not just something that is nice to have, it’s a necessity for your health.

Ryan O’Reilly is an executive and team coach, sales trainer and international speaker. 

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