Out of office: do YOU know it’s Christmas time?

Nick Goldberg encourages us to abstain from work-related email during the festive season

Christmas is right around the corner, bringing most of us much needed time away from the office to refresh and re-boot. However, for many employees the days leading up to a prolonged period of time away from the office are increasingly stressful with the struggle to get to-do lists ticked off in an effort to return to your desk with a clean slate.

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A recent survey by Lee Hecht Harrison Penna shows more than a third (36 per cent) of us will continue to check work emails over the Christmas break. This remains consistent across genders as men are only 2 per cent more likely than women to succumb to the compulsion of checking their inbox (37 per cent vs. 35 per cent).

Meanwhile there’s a marked difference when it comes to comparing age groups. Millennials (18-34 year olds) are most susceptible to scanning their work inbox when out of office as half (49 per cent) admit to checking in online during the holiday season.

What’s more, over half of Londoners (54 per cent), the biggest culprits in our survey, are unable – or unwilling – to truly switch off and leave their work behind.

Surprisingly, it isn’t the biggest companies that make the most demands on their employees as only a quarter (25 per cent) of employees working in companies of 2,500 or more feel the need to check emails in between opening presents and tucking into the Quality Street tin.

Though it may seem trivial, neglecting to fully check out of every aspect of your work means you aren’t allowing yourself time to fully rest and recuperate, which ultimately means you won’t be at your best come the new year. Holidays are important not only because they feed your social life and overall wellbeing, but also because they contribute to reviving your potential for creative and innovative thinking; two vital aspects of any work. Essentially – your brain is a muscle, and unless you give it a break, it will not be able to continue to perform at the highest level. Athletes need to rest those muscles and zoning out for a few days can do wonders for creativity and clarity of thinking.

Before heading away for the Christmas season, make sure you talk to your manager about the rules of ‘holiday connectivity’ so you know what is and what isn’t expected of you. Take this opportunity to let them know you understand the demands of the surrounding on-demand economy, and indeed the always-on world, but most importantly make sure you draw a line to allot enough family time and to allow your brain some respite. Make a distinction between being connected but not necessarily available and protect yourself against the risk of eventually becoming disengaged by putting emails away while on your holiday.

As an employer, make sure you’re moving away from the stigma that is talking about burn-out, and promote psychological wellbeing by showing you understand the correlation between exhaustion and poor work performance. The technological advancements that have enabled immediate connectivity at the click – or swipe – of a button are still novel, and the problems they raise are likewise relatively new. As such, it’s important to make sure you are on the frontline of setting up innovative policies to safeguard your employees, your company and your industry by staving off the inevitable depletion and loss of energy that comes from constant work.

If you’re having trouble going offline here some tips:

  1. Try to stay present. Remind yourself of where you are and what your family has planned during the day, being mindful of your present activities will help you resist the familiar pull of professional obligations
  2. Question the importance. Before answering or reading any email ask yourself if this task really is crucial, or if it can wait those few days until your return
  3. Put a timer on it. If you absolutely cannot resist checking in, allow yourself a time slot and stick to it
  4. Assign a ‘home boss’. Give one of your family members the authority to pull you away from your desk or phone when the time’s up
  5. Pick up something new. If your brain absolutely cannot be taken off work mode, pick up a new non-work related skill. Try out a new recipe, teach your child to ride a bike or finish an entire boxset.

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