“You have been on the phone most of the day! You promised me no work when we are on a holiday.”
After a long year of meeting targets, acquiring new clients and building a robust team, you have finally taken that much-needed break, only to be virtually connected to your work. And thus, all the excitement and respite your vacation is supposed to bring, goes all in vain.
A lot of my friends and colleagues often find themselves in this situation. That’s also the situation which most senior managers face today.
Senior Managers and vacations
Research says, about 21% of Indian managers don’t take a break because of the fear of missing out on important decisions at work. And a same percentage of managers feel that they are equally stressed on the holidays as well. Even if you manage to take a break, you still continue to worry about deadlines, targets and performance of your employees. To make it tougher, technology and smart devices have blurred the line between work hours and personal time. Willingly or unwillingly, we all tend to stay connected with our work 24/7.
In a Randstad research (Source Live Mint, March, 2017), survey said that about 78% of senior employees in Indian organisations are expected to be available on calls/emails on holidays as well. Furthermore, the report also stated that even on a one-week vacation, 37% of the respondents checked email/voicemail at least once a day because it makes them feel less stressed.
However, I believe there are ways to reduce such stress while on a holiday and make your personal time stress-free.
I Love Vacations
I’m not one of those who subscribes to the philosophy of ‘Build work from which you need no vacation’. I believe, just like you are responsible for the success of your organisation, similarly, the onus of making your vacation worthwhile is also on you. I hate carrying my work along. Which means I have to work towards ensuring I have a good time. So, I plan and plan and plan (literally) to ensure my absence from work would not hold back any work.
Whether it is for two days or 15 days, I follow these 5 ways to truly unwind on holidays, while ensuring that my work or my teams are not affected by my absence:
Plan your play
Give yourself and your team/s at least a month’s notice prior to your holidays. Let them know about your plans and work backwards from the set date. Prepare your people in advance for the time when you will not be around. Of course, you wouldn’t want to leave in the middle of a project or before an important campaign takes off! Ensure that your teams utilise this period of one month assuming that you are not around and you can supervise them to ensure that work continues seamlessly even in your absence.
Create a back-up
Every leader needs a second-in-command. If you are to keep moving up the ladder, you would have to ensure that you train your subordinates well enough to handle things on their own. Invest time to mentor more than one team member who aspires to grow and shows potential. This is the time to see the true colours of your training! Find a responsible and resourceful team member who can cover for you and is ready to take on the heat when you are not there. Delegating is critical and essential. This can help you not only to keep the stones rolling at work but also help you enjoy your holidays, a little less stressed.
Your work is important and indispensable. So is your personal life, which includes rebooting your mind once in a while. Hence holidays. But unless you set that straight with your teams and your management, it could lead to ‘working vacations’. Let your staff know about your availability (or non-availability for that matter) during the holidays. For example: I let my team know that I could be contacted on a fixed day and time while I’m on vacation in case we need to discuss any critical work. Usually I never receive any call, and when I do, it is a structured and pointed discussion which can be managed with ease. Exigencies can happen and you should be prepared for that. But that should be defined clearly as “emergency only” situations.
Close all loops
Before you leave, and while you are on your ‘vacation notice’, ensure no communication is left open-ended, waiting for you to approve of or confirm any decisions. Try and schedule all meetings for projects that would come up once you are back from the break. I would go up to the extent of informing key clients that I would be away and drop them emails on who they could keep in touch with while I was away. Ensure that all important clients and clients with live projects have been given an update on their work and each team member is clear about their next steps. Make sure that you close your pending tasks before you head for that exotic locale, so you can enjoy basking in the sun or trekking the hills, without thinking about what you left behind.
Plan your re-entry
Most people stress about getting back to work after a vacation, which they took to reduce stress. It turns into a vicious cycle. To avoid this, you need to plan your way back to work, so you don’t go through a ‘vacation hangover’. Ease your way back in to work by giving yourself a buffer time, after your vacation. Since I plan almost everything, I would also plan in advance how my work week would look when I return from my vacation. I knew exactly what to expect in the week after I return and that made it easy to get back in the thick of things. Plan your arrival back to your city a few days before you are due to report to work, that gives you enough time to unwind from the travel fatigue and get back in sync with your routine, check all pending mails or return calls that would need your attention once you are in office.
But before you embark on your vacation…
Take a mental break
As esoteric as it may sound, it all starts from how you think. And so is the case with a vacation. Unless and until you mentally consider the holidays to be a ‘break from routine’, you would not be on an actual vacation. The core idea of a ‘break’ is to break away from the rigmarole, not just the physical presence or absence from office.
As long as there are goals, agendas and deadlines, there will be responsibilities. But to be able to effectively and efficiently fulfill those responsibilities, you need to refresh, revive and reboot your mind and body. Some decisions about your business or your organisation will never wait. And you have to take that call or answer that email even if you are amidst the most rejuvenating place on earth. But that is for that particular moment and at that moment alone. Thinking about work all through your holidays can not only ruin your perfectly-planned vacation but also make you miss out on some precious family and personal time. Isn’t it better to cross the bridge when you get there, rather than thinking how to cross it?
Next time you are lazing on the beach, prevent your mind from wandering back to your office and worrying about how to handle a particular client or how to deal with your non-performing employees. Unless and until that phone beeps and you need to momentarily shift your attention to a pressing need at work, enjoy your holidays!
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Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer, and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.