In these modern times, we carry the office around with us. Digital devices, particularly our smartphones, have given us flexibility about where and when we work.

This flexibility, however, has blurred the boundaries between our working and personal lives. This can make it difficult to switch off from work outside of office hours. The temptation to check emails and keep in touch with colleagues can be strong.

This “always on” culture can affect our mental and physical health, as we struggle to switch off and recharge our batteries. In fact, according to CIPD, 54% of people find it difficult to unwind during their free time.

Here are some tips to help you relax on holiday and make the most of your precious time off.

Plan ahead

Your holiday is booked, you’ve bought your sun cream and you’re feeling the pressure to tick everything off on your to-do list before you jet off. It can be challenging to get caught up on everything you need to do before you leave. But planning ahead and tying up any loose ends can make it easier for you to relax when you’re on the beach with a cocktail.

Give your colleagues advance warning about when you are going away. If possible, delegate any smaller tasks you have to them and communicate why. This should help you prioritise the bigger jobs that need to be completed before you go.

Set up your out of office email

Clarify exactly how long you are away and reinforce that you will not be checking your emails while you’re gone. Establish a point of contact in your absence and then let that person know to expect some emails. This way, you can relax knowing that whatever email is lurking in your inbox, you’ve sorted out a way to deal with it.

Step away from your inbox

Technology has many benefits. But it can make us feel we must reply to work emails and stay connected with workmates during our time off.

In fact, two in three Brits admit to checking their emails when on annual leave. Perhaps not helped by the fact that almost three-quarters said they were contacted by their boss or colleagues while away from work.

Leave your laptop at work (or store it away in your home office) and turn off email notifications from your phone. Or better still you may want to delete the email app from your smartphone entirely. Your inbox will still be there when you return, and you’ll be able to relax without the constant distraction.

Schedule screen time

Ideally, you shouldn’t check your work emails at all during your break. But if the idea of ignoring them entirely fills you with dread, at least limit your tech time. Set yourself some boundaries and stick to them. This could mean setting aside ten minutes each morning to check your phone or laptop, then that’s it. Step away from the screen!

Trust your colleagues

The company won’t collapse just because you’re sunning it up in Florida for a fortnight. If you start to worry, remember that your team are capable of handling things in your absence. You are entitled to a break just like everyone else and time away from work is essential for your mental health.

Plan some fun activities

Don’t over-plan and give yourself no time to relax. But having too much time lazing around can cause you to drift back into work mode. By planning some activities you’ll have less time to think about work or what may be waiting for you on your return.

Try an activity you’ve always been interested in but haven’t managed to squeeze into your busy schedule. Or perhaps you'd like to sink your teeth into a new project.

Maybe you have some furniture at home you’ve been meaning to upcycle, or a blog you haven’t updated for a while. Focusing on personal projects will keep your brain active. You'll also feel like you’re accomplishing something.

Recognise the benefit of downtime for productivity

In many workplaces, people often say how busy they are, as if working non-stop makes you an ideal employee.

But the truth is, being constantly busy doesn’t necessarily make you any better at your job. In fact, driving too hard without taking time for rest can make us less productive and less focused.

You’ve likely heard of the old cliché, “work smarter not harder”. Making good use of your annual leave and making time for rest could be a smart way of boosting your productivity.

It can help you to be more creative, more motivated and more engaged. You may find you return to work energised, with fresh perspective and ready to take on the world once again.

Learn more about productivity and the benefits of taking a break with our blog - how to increase employee productivity in the workplace in 2024.