Switching Off

A full quarter of all sorts of people say they think about work-related issues in their leisure time, including holidays, weekends and extended breaks.

This is not about work-life balance as much as work-life boundaries. It is about not letting work issues dominate outside work, during leisure activities.

Mark Cropley, health psychologist at Surrey University

As I was getting dressed on my first day back to work after my holiday, apart from feeling a bit shocked at having to get up so early, I was feeling refreshed and relaxed having totally switched off over the previous two weeks.

The only work-related activity I had done during that time was to switch my phone on every couple of days to see if my assistant had sent me a text. We had arranged that she would only contact me if something urgent had come up. I did not check my emails, I did not answer any phone calls and I did not engage in any work-related thoughts or worries. I switched off…

Not being able to switch off is a recurring theme of the coaching conversations that I have with many of my clients. A few weeks ago I was facilitating a team development workshop for the Chief Executive’s Team of a professional body.

When discussing their challenges, the CEO said “One of my biggest challenges is not being able to switch off when I am away from the office.”

So what are the downsides of not switching off? Here are just a few:

  • Poor sleep
  • Lack of concentration
  • Stress, depression and other mental health problems
  • Physical health problems
  • Poor decision-making, low effectiveness and reduced productivity at work
  • Relationships with family and friends suffering

When you are away from the office physically, are you still present mentally and emotionally? If you are not switching off:

  • Is it about you?
  • Is it about the culture you work in?
  • Is it a requirement of your job?

For the CEO that I mentioned earlier, it was about not trusting a couple of people in the organisation and being worried about the decisions they might make in his absence. This is, of course, something that he can fix.

Other reasons for not switching off that my clients have shared with me include:

  • Fear of not knowing
  • Needing to be in control
  • Not understanding what is urgent
  • Checking emails becomes a habit, even an addiction
  • Needing to be needed
  • Being reactive rather than proactive
  • Organisational or team culture
  • No support available to cover holidays – or not arranging support

So what can you do about it?

Ten top tips for switching off

  1. Firstly recognise that the benefits of switching off are more important than what you gain by not switching off
  2. Identify the REAL reason you are not switching off
  3. Physically switch off gadgets when you are not working, lock them away or put them out of sight
  4. Develop your team to deal with things in your absence
  5. Deal with trust issues
  6. Create a strategy for holidays such as someone else to read emails, out of office messages for both email and phone and that you are only to be contacted in an emergency
  7. Distract yourself by concentrating on something else
  8. Do something physical
  9. Get some fresh air – take a walk
  10. Learn relaxation techniques
Switching off

After all don’t we work to live rather than live to work?

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from exploring this topic, please get in touch with me on 01189690783 or at j.harris@breathoffreshair.uk.com

1 thought on “Switching Off

  1. Margaret Cain Reply

    A very timely article (for me) – most practical! I wonder if some cultures are better/worse at switching off?

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