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Do we really switch off on holiday?

I just came back from my weeklong holiday in Ibiza, but looking back at it, did I really have a week off? Throughout the holiday I had phone calls with clients and interims, checked my emails, and replied to messages on LinkedIn. Not to mention daily social media updates: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And I wasn’t alone – most of my friends seem to do the same.

The first day of the holiday was great. We arrived in a beautiful villa located in the middle of the island, put the bags down, immediately checked our phones (as you do) and…  “No Service” message appeared on the screen! No internet! No phone calls! Nothing! Annoyed at first, we all suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. Unfortunately, the WIFI was fixed the next day and our ‘freedom’ was short-lived.

Breaking away from work has never been more challenging.  As we spend most of the year glued to a phone, a tablet or our PC, our biggest challenge on holiday is letting it all go!

“As a nation, it appears that we really have become work-obsessed. According to a survey commissioned by British Airways Holidays, the average British worker only manages to fully switch off and relax for four days while on a two-week holiday.”  

It seems that it takes on average three full days to be able to forget about work. However come day seven of our two-week break, we start checking emails, speaking with colleagues and logging into our CRM systems. What’s more worrying, 15% of the survey respondents admitted to also taking their laptop or tablet – as well as their smartphone - to the pool or beach so they can stay connected and catch up on some work if needed.

So, how can we successfully switch off from work on holiday?

Before you leave:

  • Deal with difficult work task before you go, otherwise they will niggle away at you
  • Don’t leave your handover for the last minute, but prepare a detailed document ahead of time
  • Redirect your email to a colleague who can deal with any urgent queries
  • Explain to your boss and colleagues you really are “switching off” and will have a limited access to emails
  • Clear your diary of any big meetings a few days before and after your holiday, so you have time to catch up

While you’re away:

  • Switch off your phone and only occasionally check it
  • Don’t tackle any work projects during your holiday and let your brain recuperate
  • If you’re one of those people who always need to keep busy, use the time to learn a new skill – yoga, cooking, surfing…

In an article in the Telegraph, Dan Kieran, author The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel, offered some wise advice to those who really want to switch off from work and remove themselves from the digital world while on holiday.

“Leave your phone in plain view on the table every time you visit a café. If you're lucky, it will get pinched.”   

Norma Warwick-Smith is the Senior Consultant for Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences at Interim Partners. 

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