Is Holiday WindDown a myth? Are we all taking Workidays?

It’s the last day before you break for Easter (or any other!) holiday… are you

a) feeling relaxed, tidying the odd few emails and doing your e-filing, around a nice leisurely lunch, or

b) frantically cramming activity in as the ever looming deadline (Friday 5pm!) draws near? And coming to a dawning realisation you’ll ‘have to’ do stuff while you’re away?

I bet the second is more familiar to many of us than than first… so when did Holiday WindDown become a workplace myth?

A colleague reminded me (on one of the many calls I scheduled on my last day pre holiday) that we’re still young enough to remember having ‘holiday cover’ …. handing over foolscap files and To-do lists to peers in return for the promise of doing the same for their annual 2 weeks in Benidorm ‘with the girls’

Is it lean organisations which have removed that support structure? Maybe.  I wonder if it’s also something to do with the highly individual and ‘personal’ relationships we now have with our work.

Can you imagine handing over that email conversation you’re in the middle of?  Or that project you’ve carefully nurtured and made your own?  Are we all so much more ‘giving’ of ourselves and our personality to work, that its hard to envisage anyone else giving the same?

Of course that brings can bring great benefits .. enthusiasm for the work, a strong work ethic, a strive for perfection, a real sense of ownership.  What business wouldn’t want to encourage and reward those traits?

On the flipside, I wonder if the challenge is we’re always ‘on’, less open for collaboration and ultimately stockpiling work in advance of (and awaiting our return) from holiday.  Can you really ‘relax and recharge’ while worrying about whether the power source in your Blackberry will last the day?  I think we need the space and perspective the holiday gives to be ‘at our best’ in everything we do

So how can you manage to holiday without it being a ‘workiday’  

  • Set up a footer on your emails 10 days before your holiday, giving advance notice that you’ll be away…. forewarned is forearmed!
  • Record a voicemail greeting that asks the caller to SMS you (and doesn’t allow them to leave a voicemail if you can!)   If they don’t bother to text it, it wasn’t that urgent
  • Plan 15 minute ‘update’ (not handover) conversations with peers and project team members in your last week – you and they will feel better that they’re ‘in the loop’ on your thinking
  • Ring-fence your last day as ‘office/admin/do not disturb’ in the diary – and ruthlessly protect it.  Start the day by prioritising using the Urgent/Important grid and turn off any email ‘popups’ that may distract you and focus!  You’ll be amazed how much you can get through

These won’t work for everyone, but a little bit of planning makes such a difference.  You may even find you have to write a blog about ensuring your two weeks in Benidorm is not a workiday ;)