Due to technological advancements in the modern business environment creating an “always on” environment, many of us find it hard to truly switch off and relax – even during holidays or down time, writes Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of Manpower South Africa.
For most of us, our emails are not only on our laptops but also on our tablets and smart phones. While this has assisted us in being productive no matter where we are and allowed us to work remotely, it also prompts us to feel like we need to be connected 24/7 and has blurred the line between work and personal time.
In the modern business environment, it is easy to fall into the trap of overdoing it and burning out. The truth is, that in order to be optimally productive, we need to rest and refuel – both physically and mentally. Several studies have shown that performance and productivity increases after breaks; which includes small breaks between tasks to longer vacations.
As we head toward the festive season, most local businesses will close or slow down, as most of the country goes on holiday. Surprisingly, many professionals find holidays more stressful than actually being at work. We are crowded by stress and anxiety around not replying to emails, the work piling up while we are away, and what issues we will need to face on our return. Sometimes it becomes too much and we find ourselves checking emails or completing work-related tasks while on holiday – made easy by our smartphones or portable devices.
This, of course, causes the vicious cycle of burn out. Having not rested or relaxed, we go into the New Year feeling heightened anxiety and stress and quickly become tired and counter-productive. It is important to unwind and feel invigorated after a holiday, ready to face even the most difficult tasks head on and reach new personal and professional goals. We need to break the cycle of guilt, and begin a ‘digital detox’, if you will.
It is no secret that stress (which causes increased Cortisol levels) has many negative impacts on the body and the mind. Vacations assist us in decreasing stress levels, and lower our risk of stress-related disorders and diseases, like heart disease, obesity, headaches, depression and anxiety.
Physical health is just as important as mental health when it comes to your career, as we are not as productive when we are not feeling well. High stress levels can affect our body’s ability to fight viruses and infections, increasing our likeliness to get sick. While it is common knowledge that eating healthily and exercising are important for your physical health, the health benefits of decreasing stress and doing things we enjoy should not be overlooked.
Additionally, it is important to focus on time away from our technological devices. While there is no doubt they have made our lives easier in many respects, spending too much time on these devices can cause chronic headaches, sleep deprivation, vision issues and even affect our ability to concentrate.
Vacations should be focused on spending time with those close to you, interacting and experiencing life outside of technology. An international group of researchers led by Purdue University Xinran Lehto concluded that family vacations contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity by fostering growing and enduring connections. Limiting the amount of time spent online and using technological devices will also help you to feel truly rested and invigorated come the end of your vacation.
While you may be thinking, “easier said than done”, there are simple ways to make switching off from work easier. Most importantly, plan ahead. Make a list of tasks to be completed by the time you finish work for the year and set realistic timeframes in which to achieve these.
This will assist you with feeling more at ease while on vacation. Should someone be standing in for you while you are on leave, set aside a little time to talk through each task and train him or her. Not only will this put your mind at ease, but will also assist in ensuring that tasks are completed in the correct way, so no extra work is created.
Remember that vacations assist in increasing productivity – which means they are not only good for your physical and mental health, but for your career as well. Switch off this December and reap the benefits.