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On the importance of a complete break

By Gail Shaw,

The summer vacation period is drawing to a close, and I hope many of you took the opportunity for a well-earned break. I learned the hard way about the importance of regular, and complete, breaks from work. It doesn't matter if it's several weeks at the coast, or just a few days lounging around at home; the important part is not thinking about work. At all.

Unfortunately, that's also the hardest part for many of us, whether it’s because we don’t trust our colleagues, we don’t like being disconnected, or because the boss expects us to be on call and logging in, even while away. A vacation where one is working every day is not a vacation. It may have cost you some leave days and you may be out of the office, but it’s not a break.

If you’re the type who habitually checks work email, and thinks about work, while on holiday, here’s your challenge for next time: don’t. Before you leave, make sure that there are no pending deadlines of which you were unaware, that the relevant people know you’re away and can handle anything that may come up, and then make a conscious decision to trust your colleagues to do their job while you are away, and not to check in with the office at all.

If you’ve got the type of boss who demands that you be working, or on call, even when you’re on holiday, then it's worth arranging a time for a serious chat about the issue. Not an emotional rant, a professional discussion. A starting point may be that you’re concerned about the effects on the company should you be in an accident, or ill and are unable to work for a long period. In my opinion, a good manager should never allow a company, or some critical part of its operations, to become dependent on one person only.

A big hurdle to overcome is your boss's fears, and perhaps your own fears too, of what might happen while you're away. The way to assuage these fears is, first, to make sure the processes for which you are responsible are well-documented and that everything is running smoothly, and then suggest to your boss that you take just a couple days off, as a trial run. He doesn’t call, you don’t check in. In all likelihood, there won't be a crisis five minutes after you walk out of the door, the company will survive perfectly well without you, for a few days, and it will be positive step for all concerned.

And if your boss really won’t see reason, maybe it’s time to consider greener pastures.

Gail Shaw (Guest Editor)

 
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