As we enter the final phase of the Christmas Day countdown, many will be looking forward to spending time with their family, albeit on a much smaller scale than in previous years. But with so many people now working from home, how easy will it be to truly ‘switch off’ this Christmas?
Without the routine of commuting to the office and back every day, the home office setup has provided both benefits and challenges in equal measures. One of the biggest issues is the ability to keep a clear line between work and home life, and it is clear that this line has continued to blur as the pandemic has progressed. The trouble with being ‘always on’ is that over time, this can lead to exhaustion and burnout. It can also lead to poor quality sleep and other health issues.
A recent study by insurance company Aviva revealed that just under half of employees said that they never fully switched off from work, with an alarming 70% admitting to checking emails and messages outside of work hours. If you are feeling the pressure and are not sure how to effectively take that step away from work this festive period, here are a few tips to help you on your way.
Set a Clear Out of Office Message
Most people will be setting up an out of office message over the holiday period, but the language used within it is important, because this will set the tone for any subsequent inbound communications over the holiday. If you tend to write something like ‘Sorry, I’m out of the office, but if you need to reach me urgently please call my mobile’, perhaps think again. Of course you are trying to be helpful and offer a means of contact for ‘urgent’ enquiries, but ask yourself whether this could be abused by people for what are really not urgent queries at all. If you frequently find that you are called when ‘off duty’ consider adapting your message to remove your mobile and just say you will be checking emails once every couple of days. Although this is still considered ‘work’ at least it’s on your terms and you can dictate who connects with you and when.
Remove Email From Your Mobile Devices
If you’ve got your work email set up on your mobile phone or tablet, it’s inevitable that you are going to check it at some point over the holiday period. This is all very well unless there’s a particularly troublesome email that either needs your immediate attention, or reactivates your ‘work brain’ as you start working out how to respond to it when you’re back at work’. The easiest thing to do is to simply remove your email completely from your devices. That way, you can’t be tempted to check.
Mute Your WhatsApp Work Groups
Many organizations are now utilizing WhatsApp for team chats or client groups and it does work extremely well for reducing the flow of unnecessary emails and endless cc’s to ensure everyone remains in the loop. That said, leaving these windows of communication open means that despite the previous steps, people can still contact you at the most inconvenient of times and depending on your settings, will be able to see when you were last online and even when you’ve read their messages. Again, the simplest thing to do here is to mute your work-related WhatsApp groups. This way, you won’t be alerted to any messages and can enjoy your much deserved holiday without the distractions.
Don’t Replace One Screen For Another
If your job involves spending much of your day in front of a computer screen, be aware of the importance of giving your eyes a break from the digital world during the holidays. Many people are guilty of closing down their laptop to immediately go onto their phones or watch the TV. Whilst this is giving your work brain a rest, it isn’t doing anything to help with resting your eyes and the blue lights emitted from these devices will continue to interrupt your natural rest cycle. Consider engaging in some activities which take you away from the screen, such as reading a book (Kindle doesn’t count!), painting or taking up an activity like crochet. Another great idea is to bring out the board games; a marathon Monopoly session will certainly give the eyes a rest, but could raise the stress levels as you compete to be the next property tycoon!
Don’t Quit Too Soon
It can be REALLY hard to wind down from work, particularly if you don’t take many long holidays during the year. On an average 2 week vacation, many find that they don’t really start to relax until day 7 or later. If you find that despite trying the steps above, you still feel ‘wired’ don’t give up. Your brain will eventually realize that it’s safe to relax and you can then start to really enjoy the Christmas break.