No employer can force their employees to stay connected while they are on holiday, yet many people still find it hard not to check their work emails. But if you don’t let your holiday be a proper holiday, it can be harmful in the long run.
– The whole point is to be away from work. That’s why holidays are the ideal time to practise the strategy of letting go of the workplace, says Kristina Spegel, psychologist and organisation consultant at Previa.
But is it so terrible to check your work emails every now and again? To answer this question, Kristina Spegel compares the situation to a rubber band that is constantly stretched tight. In the end, the rubber band will wear out and lose its elasticity – it’s the same thing with people.
– It’s about where you are mentally. Checking work emails pulls your thoughts back to work and affects your mental recovery. And this comes at a price. You are not really there in the summer sunshine; your thoughts are on your job, which means you aren’t getting the recovery your body needs.
Tips on how to disconnect when on holiday
- Slow down and stop. Try to slow down before you go on holiday. If you have high levels of stress when you start your holidays, it can take a good while for your body to unwind. Set aside time to clear the decks in your last week at work, and finish the job before you clock out.
- Tidy away your home office. If you have been working from home, it is a good idea to clear away your home office and allow your home to be a work-free zone, a space to relax and recover.
- Start slowly. It takes time to adjust from work to free time. Give yourself a few days to unwind, with no obligations. Get used to being off work by taking two or three days with nothing at all you absolutely have to do.
- Listen to your body. Let your energy levels dictate what you do during your holidays. Don’t keep up the same high tempo as when you are at work, and prioritise the things you wanted to do in the early part of the year but didn’t have time for.
- Get moving. Try to fit in some enjoyable exercise; it will improve your well-being. Adapt to your needs, but give your body some physical stimulation, for example by going for a walk, swimming, playing a sport or other low-key exercise. Ideally, do this outside to get some sunlight.
- Lie in. Sleep is by far the most important time for recovery. Make sure you get lots of rest, and don’t get up too early. Take a nap if you feel like it.
- Let work go. Turn off your phone and turn on out of office replies on your email. Try to create the perfect conditions to really switch off from work. If you have to keep a line of communication with work open, schedule a specific time once or twice a week to read emails and listen to messages.
- Recovery. Research shows that your body, soul and psyche all need a considerable period of continuous time off for optimal recovery. Don’t split up your holiday – make sure you take at least three, preferably four, weeks off in a row.