In these modern times, we carry the office around with us. Digital devices, particularly our smartphones, have given us the opportunity to be flexible regarding where and when we work, meaning we no longer need to be chained to our desks.

This flexibility, however, has blurred the boundaries between our working and personal lives, making it increasingly difficult to switch off from work outside of office hours. The temptation to check emails and keep in touch with colleagues can be strong and many people find it difficult to slow down and unwind during their free time – be that evenings, weekends or on holiday.

This “always on” culture can have serious implications on our mental and physical health, as we struggle to switch off and recharge our batteries. 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 the office, 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 sangria in hand.

Give your colleagues advance warning about when you are going away and 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 go about your holiday safe in the knowledge that whatever possible email is lurking in your inbox, you’ve sorted out a way to deal with it.

Step away from your inbox

While technology has its many advantages, it can also make us feel obliged to answer emails when they come in and keep in touch with our colleagues when we’re out of the office. 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 the office.

Leave your laptop at work and turn off email notifications from your phone so you’re not as tempted to read them, or better still you may want to delete the email app from your smartphone entirely. Your inbox will still be there when you return from your week in the sun and you’ll be able to relax properly 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 find yourself worrying, remind yourself that your colleagues are more than capable of holding the fort while you are away. 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, obviously. But having too much time lazing around doing nothing can cause you to drift back into work mode, especially if you’re the sort of person who needs constant stimulation. By scheduling in some activities to look forward to, you’ll have less time to think about what you’ve been working on at the office or what work you have 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 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. Keeping your mind focused on non-work-related projects will help to keep your brain active while feeling like you’re accomplishing something worthwhile.

Recognise the benefit of downtime for productivity

It has become somewhat entrenched in workplace culture to voice how busy you are, as though being run ragged makes you a model 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 and recuperation 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 rest an essential part of your schedule could be a smart way of boosting your productivity, helping you to be more creative, more motivated and more engaged. You may find you return to the office energised, with fresh perspective and ready to take on the world once again.

If you’re keen to learn more about productivity and the benefits of taking a break with our how to increase employee productivity in the workplace in 2022 blog.