The effects of “always on”
There is no doubt that the advances in technology that have helped us in so many ways, have also driven the “always on” culture. A survey carried out by CV Library found that an alarming 72.4% of respondents reply to work emails or calls in their free time. The recent Panorama documentary on smartphones focused on how everything about our phones is designed to be addictive: the colours, the ability to scroll and scroll, the notifications, the accessibility.
The inability to switch off can lead to so many health and wellbeing concerns: poor quality of sleep, increased stress and exhaustion, less time to spend with family and friends, and less time to spend on hobbies. If our day to day lives are filled with this, then of course we all need a holiday!
Yet, while we are all aware of the dangers of presenteeism, we now need to be mindful of “leaveism”. The CIPD Health & Wellbeing survey found that many workers are using their holiday to complete a backlog of work-related tasks and not actually taking that desperately needed break. You have to question the quality of work that will be produced by an employee who has no time to rest – where is the time to think things through and come to optimal decisions?
If you do not address this, your business will suffer, that is a fact. Staff burnout inevitably leads to increases in sick leave, lower productivity, higher turnover – and in worst case scenarios, costly legal action.
The benefits of “switching off”
Paid holiday isn’t a luxury or a bonus, it is actually a legal entitlement. If you ensure your employees use that holiday time to have a complete break, there are tangible benefits for all.
Switching off can allow an individual to dedicate some time to reflection which may lead to more creative thought processes. Giving the mind some space from all the daily interruptions of life will allow a more attentive and focused type of thinking, and it is this state that can lead to new ideas. Dedicating time to familial connections and drawing inspiration from books, films, art, surroundings, can all help to boost this process.
Getting proper rest and sleep will recharge the batteries. An opportunity to get some perspective on how their work life fits into their private life (and that they can be separated) will help to ease work-related stress.
Overall, your employees should return with improved concentration and focus, reenergised, refreshed, more productive, more engaged, perhaps even with new solutions to existing problems.
Embody a healthy attitude to holidays
So why are we so afraid of switching off? Often it is based on silent irrational fears: Will the office fall apart without me? Will I look like I don’t care enough? If a member of staff actually voiced these statements to you, I am sure you would tell them not to worry and that everything will be managed. But you do need to be explicit in giving your employees permission to take a complete holiday.
Interestingly, some companies such as Netflix and LinkedIn have taken the radical step of putting no limit whatsoever on staff holidays in an effort to combat the attitude that time off is a luxury. Tech firms are creating tools which enable you to reinforce work-life boundaries. For example, Microsoft recently announced an addition to Teams which allows you to flag to staff when they are emailing outside of agreed working hours.
But there is one simple thing you can do to ensure your employees are taking proper breaks. Lead by example. When you take your holiday, make yourself unavailable, switch off and delegate. You set the “holiday culture” within your business so practice what you preach.