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How to make sure your Employees switch off during their time off

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

Unless you’re a superhuman, an android or the Duracell rabbit, taking time off to recharge your batteries is essential in reaching your potential. Unless your staff fit in to these categories, the same principle applies. Whether they’re riding the waves in the Caribbean or surfing the web from the comfort of their couch, the point of paid leave is to allow staff the time to take a mental break from the working week.

Ever since we glued our phones to our hands, however, disconnecting from our daily routine has become near impossible. 

“I’ll just check my email,” says your Employee as they lounge by the pool. 
“I just have to send this thing,” they say over dinner to their other half.

 “I just need to double-check what’s happening with this project.”

But it’s never just something. 

The fear of falling behind has their brains buzzing with work related worries. What starts as one email soon becomes a chain; what was intended to be a quick catch-up becomes the focal point of an entire day off. 

Before long, their annual leave is over and they’re back to the grind. Rather than returning to work feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world, it feels like they never left.

The result? A classic case of professional burn-out. But what can we do to encourage our Employees to switch off during their time off?

Do not disturb

Everyone is entitled to time off. However, it’s difficult to disconnect when a barrage of emails are blowing up your phone. While staff should be encouraged to remove work-related communications from their personal mobile devices, it’s a good idea to establish a ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy that prevents staff from contacting colleagues when they are on holiday. Now, I know what you’re thinking: what if something happens while they’re on holiday that demands their urgent attention? 

Consider this: will the business cease to exist due to one person’s annual leave? Will the company haemorrhage customers because a member of staff was off work? If the answer is yes, the problem isn’t their holiday, it’s the organisational structure. Now consider how you would feel, stepping off the plane to start your holiday only to be sucked back in by a sudden email with a scary subject line. You could say goodbye to the well-earned relaxation you had in mind, that’s for sure. 

Lighten the load

According to a recent survey from British Airways, 16% of workers felt guilty in 2017 for using all their holiday allowance. Yes, you read that right: 320 of the 2,000 Employees surveyed said they felt bad for taking advantage of a legal right. How did we get here? When did workers stop living for the weekend and start seeing every second off work as an opportunity to get ahead?  Organisational psychologist Julia Knight says it’s often due to “thinking errors” among Employees who say they can’t take holidays because “they’re too busy.” 

As their Employer, it’s up to you to challenge this bad behavioural habit by reminding staff of the importance of their wellbeing in achieving objectives. Generally, this attitude stems from a lack of proper delegation or an imbalance within a particular department - for example, when one person boasts a more diverse skill-set than their fellow team members. Managers quickly assume that this skilled individual can dip in and out of various functions; that they will always be around to help where they can. In turn, the employee becomes ‘business critical’ and begins to see time off as a burden. 

Helping your staff to switch off is about recognising when an individual has become overwhelmed with responsibility and finding a way to lighten the load before they completely keel over. Encouraging knowledge-sharing between teams can be particularly helpful in allowing someone to leave work for more than a day without worrying that everything is falling apart.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.   

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