Summer in the UK has finally arrived and as I write this week’s column, the weather has decided to compete with the Middle East which for us Brits is rather unusual. But I am not complaining.
Children start to break up for their summer holidays which can prove to be a challenge for some working parent(s). During term time, routines usually work like clockwork. Children are delivered to the school gates before you go to the office and then collected at the end of the day. The school/office routine works well and everyone knows what is expected of them.
Your vacation dates are agreed at work and for the parents who want to take their children away on holiday, there is the family discussion as to where to go and for how long. For many working parents, the long weeks away with their children can be a joy, however, for others it can, unfortunately, be quite stressful.
For some parents, having to be on call 24/7 and to ensure that their children never become bored becomes a nerve-racking challenge that can sometimes end in family arguments.
When holiday time arrives, you may leave the office wondering how everyone is going to manage without you. Who is going to complete that urgent project and what if that potentially important client happens to call when you are away? And so you pack your bags, unable to switch off from work and it is not unusual for some of us to get headaches or migraines just trying to unwind. Some of us sit at the side of the swimming pool clutching our cellphones just in case and, of course, we check our e-mails before going to bed and immediately upon waking up. So in reality, do we ever switch off?
Scenario to prevent
Sometimes, the holiday that is meant to recharge our batteries just leaves us flat and the precious time with our children gets lost along the way. Often, one parent, sometimes the wife, becomes angry when she realises that her husband is still ‘at the office’. Children also get upset when they see their dad or mum writing e-mails or surfing the internet instead of interacting with them. This type of scenario happens all too frequently.
So, how can you switch off on a holiday?
1. If you head up a team, build some time into your schedule to brief them before you leave office and discuss any outstanding issues or commitments. Don’t just leave the office and think people will know what is in your head or in your inbox. Give them a detailed list of all projects in which you are involved and commitments that need to be met, and your instructions as to how these should be handled, and when. This briefing should be a two-way conversation and you should allow time for your team to share any concerns with you that they may need to address in your absence.
2. Think through any possible problems that might arise and plan for contingencies. Make sure that your secretary or colleagues are aware of exactly what to do during your absence.
3. Before you actually leave the office, make your ‘to-do’ list and do a brain-dump of all outstanding matters to be addressed upon your return as this will help you clear your mind and relax. The aim of any holiday is to ensure that you switch off and not worry about what you might have forgotten to do.
4. If you are job-sharing, make sure your colleague (s) are aware of any clients or customers who might wish to make contact. You certainly don’t want to lose business while you are away enjoying yourself in London or New York.
5. Finally, tell your team that you are available in an emergency, not otherwise, and, if you have organised your office, then this should minimise any need for you to be disturbed.
With this necessary planning, it should serve to ensure that you have a restful and stress-free holiday where you can switch off your cellphone and stop worrying whether the team can manage without you. It can: you are not indispensable.
So, switch- off work and switch in to a great holiday.
— The author is a BBC Guest Broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.