How to switch off on holiday

3 August 2010
The holiday season is here again. For some it may represent a well earned break. For others it ushers in a period of great anxiety. Is it possible to take a holiday and to feel genuinely excited and relaxed? I read a horrifying article recently about “bleisure”, the concept of blending or extending business travel with leisure travel. All sounds fine, although in reality it is difficult to make this work if you are not single. It has a further meaning, however: the blending of business with leisure, using technology to make the most of your time. But the reality is never having down time. We email on trains or in the dentist’s waiting room and hardly any of us work fewer hours to compensate. The notion of “bleisure” takes a more sinister turn when we think how it affects our holidays. I am now going to sound like my father but before BlackBerrys and mobile phones people were not contactable on holiday. They were able to benefit fully from spending time with family and friends or on projects and hobbies. Holidays served as validation for working so hard during the year – to support a lifestyle that includes vacations. The organisation benefited in two ways: first, the workforce took regular breaks and was able to recharge its batteries; second, employees were given the opportunity to step temporarily into the boss’s shoes, experiencing the pressures of the role and testing their decision-making capabilities. In today’s world holidays are less defined. Even before we get to the concept of “bleisure” there is pressure to be available outside normal working hours. The key question I would ask is how much of that pressure is actually put on us by the organisation we work for and how much is the result of working practices from our peers and our own desire for control? Most organisations want the benefits of their people going on holiday – renewed energy, fresh perspective and opportunities for subordinates to prove themselves. It is up to us to ensure this is what they get. My tips for getting the most out of your holiday are: 1. Appoint a deputy in your absence. Make sure everyone is aware that your deputy is empowered to make decisions. Coach him or her on any key decisions they might need to make. Stand by those decisions if people try to contact you while you are away. 2. Leave your BlackBerry at home and don’t check your email. 3. If that’s not possible then make sure that you limit your checking to allocated times and that you only talk directly with your deputy. This is a time for your team to prove themselves. I would go one step further and say it’s dangerous to make big decisions while on holiday. We don’t manage to do our jobs in an hour a day during normal circumstances so why we think we can when on holiday is beyond me. The three tips above have not been easily learnt but my world is a much happier place because I have learnt them. If you have read this article with a sense of horror at the thought of relinquishing control or contact during your holiday then perhaps a caravan in the company car park would solve the issues of how you maintain the best of both worlds. If that sounds ridiculous then perhaps you could leave your BlackBerry at home and feel happier for it. Sam Covell is head of IS procurement at AstraZeneca (
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