The Gift of Disconnecting from Work: Embracing the True Spirit of the Holidays

In today’s always-on digital world, it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling the need to be perpetually connected to work. With the convenience of smartphones and laptops, many of us find ourselves checking emails late at night, taking calls during family dinners, or thinking about the next big project while on a vacation. However, it’s vital to understand the importance of truly disconnecting from work, not just for our well-being but for the health of our teams and businesses.

With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect opportunity to prioritize taking a real break.

Why Disconnecting Matters

Here are several reasons why disconnecting matters:

  • Mental Health Benefits: Continuous work without a break can lead to burnout, increased stress levels, and anxiety. A genuine vacation allows the brain to reset, reducing the risk of mental health issues.
  • Boosts Productivity and Creativity: Contrary to the belief that constant work equals more productivity, studies have shown that taking breaks can actually improve efficiency and creativity.
  • Improved Work Relationships: Allowing your team to take breaks and ensuring they don’t feel pressured to work during vacations can improve morale and team dynamics.
  • Physical Health: Continuously being in “work mode” can be detrimental to physical health, increasing the risk of ailments like heart diseases. Rest and relaxation play an essential role in maintaining our physical well-being.

How I Embrace the Holiday Spirit

The festive period is a time for reflection, joy, and togetherness. By shutting down for a week between Christmas and New Year’s, not only am I giving myself the much-needed break, but I’m also allowing my team to rejuvenate. They return more motivated, and this results in a healthier work environment and better output.

Consider this practice of completely shutting down during the festive season. But if your business model requires someone to be always available, think about allowing team members time off in different groups, such as half of one department gone for 4 days and the other half gone for the other 4 days. This way, everyone gets their much-deserved break without hampering the workflow.

Tips and Tricks to Truly Disconnect

If you’re worried about the temptation to peek into work while on vacation, here are some actionable tips to help you genuinely disconnect:

  • Designate a Work-free Zone: Move your work computer to a closet or another room. This physical separation can serve as a mental reminder that you’re on a break.
  • Organize Your Phone: Move all your work-related apps to a folder and place it away from the main screen. Out of sight, out of mind! I move my work email and other work apps to the last icon screen on my iPhone in its own folder to make them difficult to get to. This really helps me combat any temptation to work.
  • Separate Devices for Work and Leisure: If possible, carry a separate tablet or laptop on vacations that doesn’t have work-related files or apps. This will prevent you from diving into work mode whenever you open the device.
  • Set an OOO (Out of Office) Reply: An informative OOO email lets people know you’re on vacation and when they can expect to hear back. This can significantly reduce the anxiety of not replying instantly.
  • Inform Your Team: Let your team know about your intention to disconnect. Set boundaries and ask them to only contact you if it’s absolutely necessary. If they are on vacation too, this will be easy.
  • Ditch the Notifications: Turn off notifications for work-related apps or emails. This reduces the
    chances of being pulled back into work mode by a single ping.
  • Allocate Check-in Times (If Absolutely Necessary): If you must check your emails, allocate specific times, like 10 minutes in the morning. Avoid checking sporadically throughout the day.
  • Engage in Activities: Participate in activities that make it hard for you to check your phone or laptop. Nature hikes, swimming, or engaging in a local festival can be great distractions.
  • Delegate Responsibilities: Before heading on vacation, delegate essential tasks to trusted team members who are still working, if you aren’t able to let everyone take off that time. Knowing someone responsible is at the helm can give you peace of mind.
  • Reflect and Journal: Use the free time to reflect on the past year and journal your experiences. This can offer clarity and help you return to work with a renewed sense of purpose.

A vacation isn’t truly a vacation if you’re still tethered to work. As the holiday season approaches, it’s time for all of us to embrace the spirit of joy, rest, and rejuvenation. By setting boundaries, preparing in advance, and using some of the tips mentioned, you can ensure that you, and your team, get the most out of this festive period. After all, the holidays are a reminder of what’s truly important in life. Let’s give ourselves, and our teams, the gift of genuine disconnection

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