Leave means leave (and we are not talking Brexit). How to truly enjoy “the serenity”.

Grevis Beard
December 18, 2019
Grevis Beard

To channel that Australian classic film, “The Castle”, regardless of whether your summer break this year is destination Bonnie Doon or destination Buenos Aires, the rule remains the same:

Leave means leave.

There is no point saying (to yourself, and others) that you will be on leave, and then actually working. It’s actually a binary proposition. Make sure you truly take that break, and thoroughly enjoy your annual leave. After all, that’s what it’s for!

If that sounds easier said than done, here are some pointers below to assist with your transition to leisure-time.

1. Reality check what your priorities are

Annual leave is a time for looking after yourself, for holidays, for truly celebrating life, for spending time with family and friends, for having adventures….and not working.

A question to ponder, and answer truthfully here is: “What is your priority in life? To work to live, or live to work?”

If you find that you are prioritising your work over everything else in your life, then maybe you are what is deemed, a “workist”? A fascinating article earlier this year by Derek Thomson in The Atlantic explored the concept of “workism” in some detail, defined as follows:

“[Workism] is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work”.

So, before one can even examine meaningful ways to switch off from work during one’s holiday breaks, the first challenge to overcome is an internal and personal one.

What is consciously (or unconsciously) stopping you from turning off from work? Is your identify and very being so wrapped up in your work that you are not able to let it go when annual leave comes up?

Thomson also makes the following pertinent observation, and based on relevant research, which is easily applicable to an Australian context:

“On a deeper level, Americans have forgotten an old-fashioned goal of working: It’s about buying free time. The vast majority of workers are happier when they spend more hours with family, friends, and partners, according to research conducted by Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School.

In one study, she concluded that the happiest young workers were those who said around the time of their college graduation that they preferred careers that gave them time away from the office to focus on their relationships and their hobbies”.

If you are a workist, then you will struggle to be motivated to implement the following steps. If your workplace culture is pervasively workist, then feel free to email around this blog post: start a conversation!

On the other hand, if you are currently very keen to find ways to truly enjoy a break from work break, then read on.

2. Plan ahead: discuss, delegate and diarise

Diarising and delegating ahead, well ahead of time, and being proactive and realistic, is time well spent.

The very last day, afternoon, and even hour of work immediately before a break can be frantic. Everything is urgent, everything is important (…suddenly!). Somehow, the impending Christmas and summer break tends to send workplaces into a melt-down.

The unspoken mantra here is often: “If it’s not done now, then life as we know it will no longer exist!”. Rationally, of course we all know that in 2020 we will pick up from where we left off this year. So why not bring this to the fore? Be proactive and plan ahead!

Most importantly, have a conversation well ahead of time (and have several) about how your work is tracking. Discuss with your supervisor, colleagues, team and other relevant individuals what you are going to be able to realistically achieve before 25 December, and what cannot be done.

That way, you will be also be able to have a conversation about what work may be needed to be delegated to others, and what work is diarised for you to pick up, on the other side of your leave. The italics are here for a purpose. Annual leave is not “working from home” leave.

If you think otherwise, then see above. What’s stopping you from letting go? Is there an unbalanced workplace culture at play that is possibly even encouraging or even demanding that you complete work whilst on leave? Time for a conversation about living the values of the workplace and ensuring everyone gets a real break.

3. Manage your technology, don’t let it manage you

Our emotional Tamagotchis, aka our smart phones, are very helpful creatures when we are in work mode.

If you have a work phone dedicated solely to work, then simply update your voice message and out of office emails, and explain whom the individual needs to call, when you are back at work, and, that you will not be checking work messages whilst on leave.

If your phone is both for personal and work use, then you need to be mindful about what you look at on your phone, and why.

Sometimes it can be difficult to go cold turkey (again, see above). Maybe it is helpful to promise to yourself, partner, dog/cat, or the ether, that you will not be checking emails so that you can enjoy your break.

Reflect on the level of possible auto pilot you are on, when it comes to work-related social media, emails and communication. Think about how you can best wean yourself of that addiction. Congratulate yourself when you do! You will find that abstaining from the technological work platforms will open up new vistas of time and relaxation for you.

4. Enjoy the serenity !

Burnout, work stress and a lack of downtime are all serious mental health issues. Annual leave is there for a reason. Like sleep, it’s not an optional nice to have. It’s fundamental to recharging our batteries, and getting the most out of life. Start noticing, once you have set all the above into place,
and you are on leave, how your body, mind and soul all rejoices together. Enjoy the serenity. You have earned it, and you now, too, have planned for it.

About Grevis Beard

Grevis Beard, Worklogic Director, is a highly experienced and widely respected author, dynamic speaker and trainer, and workplace investigator. Grevis speaks knowledgeably and diplomatically on how to resolve workplace conflict, manage people risk and build a positive culture at work.

Worklogic works with employers to resolve workplace  complaints and create a positive culture at work. Please contact us for an obligation-free, confidential discussion on issues at your workplace.

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