It’s the time of year when many of us will take time off work, go on holiday and spend time with those closest to us.

For many of us though, work never stops and it can be incredibly difficult to completely switch off.  While we might physically be away from our usual place of work, many of us will continue to think about the to-do lists, the client requests and the number of un-read emails that continue to creep up if they go unchecked.

In what was seen as a need to address employees ever growing need to be ‘always-on’, constantly checking emails and responding to work queries outside of office hours, in 2017 France introduced a new labour law: French companies with more than 50 employees are to guarantee workers the right to disconnect from technology when they leave the office.

Whether you agree with the French lawmakers on this one or believe it goes too far, there are still many compelling reasons why you and your team should take this time of year to have quality time off work and ‘switch off’, both physically and metaphorically.

Here’s just a few:

  • Daydreamingresearch has shown that the daydreaming state of our brains is likely linked to our brains ability to be creative and problem solve. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: task-positive which is active when you are engaged in a task and focused on it and task-negative when your mind is wandering or daydreaming.  It’s thought that the insight and creativity formed when our brains are in a task negative mode, most likely gives the human brain a greater capacity to problem solve. Sure, you won’t be crossing items off your work to-do list while your mind is wandering, but it may just give your mind the opportunity to process other important life or work questions and give your mind the opportunity to view a problem from a new angle.
  • Being present – what better time to focus on being truly present with family and friends. There’s a saying “don’t let the future steal your present’ and the importance of this shouldn’t be underestimated.  Our ever-connected status coupled with the fact that we now are required to process more information than ever, means that many of us have become skilful multi-taskers.  Which on one hand is great, but on the other may mean that we aren’t giving enough attention to what’s going on in the present.  ‘Living in the moment’ while you’re on your break and limiting the time you spend on work may make you feel calmer, more positive and may increase your ability to be in tune with your own thoughts/emotions and of those closest to you.
  • Goal Setting – instead of setting New Year Resolutions, while you are on your break, spend some time to sit down with a clear head and determine your personal and professional goals for the next 12 months. Remember the SMART acronym when setting your goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound.  Set yourself up for success and work out what you need to put in place in order to achieve each goal.  Also hold yourself accountable and set yourself calendar requests over the next 12 month period to ‘check-in’ to see how you’re tracking.
  • Demonstrate leadership – if your team’s ability to switch off is important enough to you that you communicate these expectations to the team (i.e. for them to not engage in work activity by sending or reading emails), then I would humbly suggest the same goes for you. So, if you’re in a leadership position (manager, team leader, supervisor or business owner) ideally, look to lead by example and not send emails to members of your team while they on their break as well.

Lastly, don’t forget to look back and take stock of what you have achieved in 2019.  In our fast-paced lives it can be all too easy to continue to focus on ‘what’s next’ without reflecting on the progress you’ve already made, be it professionally and/or personally.  Use this time to take a moment or two to acknowledge the wins and maybe even reflect on the learning opportunities.

I wish you a wonderful break that allows you to come back to work feeling revitalised, with a new perspective and maybe even the ability to view a problem from a new angle.

Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners.

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