24 Aug 6 ways to maximise the benefits of your annual leave
Are you one of those people so cognitively preoccupied by work that taking time off is a bit like withdrawal from a drug you can’t function without?
Social psychology research suggests that for some dutiful people, a vacation may be filled with feelings of guilt about the work they’ve left behind for colleagues to cover. They feel deprived of their familiar work patterns and find themselves unable to resist doing work or at least thinking about it while they are away.
Unsurprisingly people in this state of mind don’t really get the full physical and psychological benefits that a vacation can give you.
Yet people who manage their time well before the start of a vacation can benefit from that period of readjustment and fully disengage from work stresses, so that their physical and psychological health improves. On leave, they have space in their mind to think more creatively about unresolved problems and often feel both physically and mentally recharged.
So how can you make the most of your vacation time?
- Be wary of pushing yourself into overdrive two weeks before you go on leave. That desperate need to clear your inbox leads to heightened stress levels that intrude on your holiday, and cause early feelings of illness often experienced by people when they take a break.
- Go for a run or visit the gym on the last day before you finish to rid your body of built up stress hormones.
- Communicate your planned holiday dates with everyone in your team as early as you can. Ask them to contact you for any information they need in good time before you go, then arrange a date after which you’re clear you won’t deal with any more requests unless they’re urgent.
- Put in place contingency plans which explain what they should do in different circumstances and who else they can contact. This will help you and them feel more in control, so issues are less likely to disturb you whilst you’re on holiday.
- Put some thought into your ‘out of office’ message. It may be preferable to return to scheduled telephone calls during your first week back, rather than wasting time replying to old emails or listening to long voice mails.
- If you must contact the office during your holiday, make it on your terms. Reassure staff or clients that you will call them, but at a time least disruptive to you and your family.
A smoother return to work
When a workaholic returns from holiday they usually experience a significant dip in their morale and rapidly lose any of the positive effects of a break, as they launch themselves straight back into a demanding workload. They (perhaps mistakenly) think that getting back in the saddle is they only way to deal with their feelings of guilt and improve their mood.
To prevent this type of post holiday blues, research suggests that a phased return to work is the best way to prolong the benefits of a holiday, and harness that renewed creativity. Try keeping your out of office on so you’re unavailable for an extra day, helping you readjust into work mode and deal with your backlog of messages.
Much to the dismay of your colleagues, it also helps to share your holiday photos and describe your wonderful experiences. This not only prolongs positive feelings, it reminds people why we take holidays in the first place: to rejuvenate and look after our well-being (as well as encourage a little healthy office envy!).