I am sitting in the office today, writing this between the Christmas and New Year holiday break. I will be honest and say that I am actually on my lap top in the boardroom watching the cricket as I write, so while I am working, it would be fair to say that I am cruising today. The phones are quiet. My desk is gradually getting tidier. My inbox is under control for the first time in four months. Coming into work this week has actually helped me feel back in control of my job for the first time in ages. Nearly all of my team are on leave and I am just starting to read some of their handover notes and instructions for the next couple of weeks and it has got me thinking; how far should you switch off when you are on leave?

Firstly, let me state my clear position on this; I believe that you should switch off as much as you feel comfortable with and do what works for you. We are all individuals and certain things work well for some of us but not all of us. We all have different jobs and manage our responsibilities very differently. The golden rule for me is that whatever works for you is OK for me as long as the customers get serviced properly and things don’t slip through the cracks.

Let me share some extreme examples of how people who have worked with me handle leave and how far they switch off:

  • The best recruiter I have ever worked with never really took leave. He was a machine and without a doubt was a “one of a kind” individual. He worked for 11 hours per day as a minimum and man with laptop on colorful beach of islandhis phone was never out of his hand. He was hyperactive, controlling, passionate and never really knew how to relax. The best and worst thing that ever happened to him was the invention of the Blackberry which allowed him to have 24/7 access to emails and this gave him the freedom to travel without worrying about work. He was married to his job in a sense but he experienced a really full personal life in many ways. He felt a responsibility to the business, his clients and most of all himself and he exercised this responsibility through always being in contact with the business. It was great for me, however, he did at times, enforce his standards on others and he was very much in the minority with this.
  • In a past life, I worked with a lady who was also brilliant at her job and excelled over a long period of time. She lived for what she called work life balance and celebrated her holidays with a gusto that was rarely seen. Her strategy was very different. Unlike the example above where the recruiter would never write a hand over or use the CRM, this lady prepared a very thorough handover with scenarios and strategies delegated to many of her peers. She was over prepared. The last line in her hand over summed up her mentality to being contacted on leave; “I will not be taking my work phone so please only contact me if it is urgent on this number…..”. She tended to turn that phone off as well. However, her planning and her handover were so thorough that things tended to work for her.

I have a few unsaid expectations for my team when they go on leave that I hope they adhere to. Most importantly, I hope that they see why these expectations are important for their careers. The access to modern technologies mean that we are all basically contactable in some way, shape or form, however, this doesn’t mean we have to answer everything. These expectations include:

  • Plan well for leave. Ensure that while you are away, your desk loses as little momentum as possible. Ensure that tasks are allocated clearly and that things will tick over. Ensure that your diary is full when you return from leave; there is nothing less productive and more frustrating than coming back from leave with nothing planned to do.
  • Understand what you need to be contacted on and what is not important. Have some rules established for this so that you and others know what is urgent and needs your attention.
  • Most people have access to emails etc. Check them from time to time. Maybe just for ten minutes a day. Don’t let your phone govern your day and interfere with family time but, if you have a spare minute, run your eyes over your emails so that you have peace of mind.
  • Everyone needs a break sometimes (even the person mentioned in example one) so make sure you take leave and relax when it comes up. It is great for your mental wellbeing and longevity.

Annual leave is a very important time for many reasons. You never want to be that person who is scared to take leave because you are concerned what catastrophe will be awaiting you on your return to work. You never want to be that person who spends their whole holiday either working or thinking of work. The secret is to plan well – give clear handovers and ensure that your tasks are allocated. If you have a spare second, peruse your phone but don’t be burdened by it. Everything in moderation! Happy holidays.

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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