It’s summer at last, and you know what that means? It’s time for the summer holidays! We’ve already had the hottest day on record (a whopping 38.7 degrees!), and many employees will be staring wistfully out of the window dreaming about their own holidays. And why shouldn’t they? Time away from work is important. It allows us to rest, recharge and reset. Taking time off work has been proven to reduce stress levels and improve mental health – it even has some physical benefits, like lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. So how can you encourage your employees, and yourself, to make the most of their time off work, and ensure that no work gets done during that precious time?
One of the biggest worries many UK employees have when taking a holiday is that they will be ‘shirking responsibility’, or that they will have a mountain of work waiting for them when they come back. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you prepare properly, you should be able to enjoy a disconnected, stress-free holiday. If you’re not sure how to prepare for your holiday, here’s a few things you can do:
- Delegate where you can (more on this later)
- Leave a checklist for whoever’s covering for you (but DON’T encourage them to get in touch while you’re away)
- Ensure your team have all they need to carry on like normal
- Don’t micromanage anyone who’s taking over your duties
- Clean your work surroundings before you leave (and make sure anything your cover might need is easy to find)
- Make sure any ongoing projects are covered
- Make a note of any outstanding tasks for your return
- Switch everything off (including work phones, or take your emails off your work phone during your holiday so you’re not tempted to peek)
If you’re like a lot of managers, then your approach will probably fall into one of two broad styles – ‘largely hands-off’ (where you trust your employees to do their own work and take ‘birds-eye view’ of everything) or ‘seriously hands-on’ (where you are incredibly involved in the day-to-day working of your employees). Neither are uncommon, and both of these styles have their place. But if you’re looking to step away from the business for any length of time, you need to work out how to delegate effectively. Teaching your employees (and yourself) how to adapt to changes in the market and the business with confidence, knowing how to delegate tasks to employees (before you go away) and giving your employees ownership of their role in the business are all critical to ensuring your business runs smoothly without you. By embracing these three things, you create an empowered and confident workforce that won’t feel the need to come to you with every trivial problem or question that comes their way, This goes for outsourcers too!
Turn on your out of office
And stick to it! If you have a separate phone or laptop for work, turn it off and leave it home. This goes the same for all employees. Everyone needs time to unplug and recharge, but the phone and the emails can prove too tempting to ignore for many. We’ve even heard of some people who don’t turn on an out of office to hide the fact they are on holiday, rather than being open about it! This seems silly to us, and totally unnecessary to boot. You are entitled to some undisturbed R&R, and you shouldn’t be worried about telling people that. And if you want some reassurance, check out the out of office set by comedian Steve Coogan when he went on holiday:
“I’m not in the office so both cannot and will not respond to your email. If your email is urgent, perhaps you should have tried calling instead. The very fact you were content to type out your query long hand and settle back to wait for a reply suggests you can wait, even if you’ve put a red exclamation next to your email to make it stand out in my inbox. Won’t wash with me, that.”
Support your employees
Many UK employees feel guilty about taking too much holiday, and feel that they will be neglecting their responsibilities by taking time off. However, good employers know that taking time away actually improves performance at work, and employees should be encouraged to take their holiday time and actually enjoy it. To do this, businesses and managers need to create a culture that supports employees who are on holiday. This can be anything from assigning someone to take over their emails and redirect their calls while they are away, to building holiday time into performance goals and projects at early stages. Encourage managers and higher ups to mention their own holidays, and ensure employees feel absolutely no pressure to work while they’re away – even if it’s just checking their emails. You could even host a series of employee focus groups to find out how employees perceive the current annual leave policy and determine how they can be supported for more effective annual leave planning.
That’s all for now, other than one final message. We hope that whatever you do this summer, you have a fantastic time, get some rest, and spend some time thinking about everything else in the world except work!