Written by Ellen Scott
The festive period is supposed to be a time of rest, relaxation and merriment… but all too often, we find ourselves still thinking about work. How do we switch off?
It’s vital that we take the opportunity of Christmas to have a proper rest, however. So how do we do that? How do we really, properly disconnect from work and throw ourselves into pulling crackers and eating mountains of cheese?
Professor Sir Cary Cooper, an advisory board member at rehab centre Delamere, shares his top tips ahead.
“If the last 20 months have taught us anything, it’s that we should be taking time to properly relax with our loved ones,” he tells us. “People are now working harder and longer hours than ever before and should use their personal time as a way to disconnect from corporate life.”
How do we do that?
Turn off all notifications and delete work apps from your phone
We know, we know, it feels scary. What if someone at work needs you? What if something big happens?
The fact of the matter is this: if there’s a genuine emergency, you’ll get a phone call (make sure that your boss has your number just to allay any worries). You truly don’t need to have your Slack/Teams/email notifications on when everyone knows you’re not working.
“Make sure to switch the pop-ups off while you are taking a much-needed break,” suggests Cooper. “Having the temptation to check emails constantly while you are off makes it harder to fully disconnect from your work life when you are trying to catch up with friends and family.
“If switching off notifications doesn’t work for you, it might be an idea to delete any work-related apps to stop you from checking in on what’s going on while you are off.”
Try not to leave things half-done before you log off
Cooper says: “Sometimes the best way to forget about work in your personal time is to draw a line under anything you have been working on. This means not leaving any pieces of work half-finished and making sure you are on top of your inbox before you clock off.
“Having everything boxed off will not only reduce anxiety while you are trying to relax but will also mean you come back to work feeling like it’s manageable.”
Set up a clear out of office
“An easy way to switch off from work is to set up an out of office on your email address,” Cooper recommends. “This will let managers and anybody who usually tries to contact you know that you won’t be checking your inbox while on annual leave or late into the evening.
“Once this is set up, assure yourself that people will see your out of the office and stick to it, so you don’t feel that you need to keep checking your emails.”
Make it clear to people you work with that you’ll be fully logged off during the Christmas break, and that you hope they take time for rest as well. This is a key part of setting boundaries – just make sure you stick to them.
“If you are planning on taking annual leave, then it’s important that you manage the expectations of your managers, clients and staff, by telling them as early as possible when you intend to be out of the office,” says Cooper.
Talk to your loved ones about what you need
If you have a hard time switching off, it might be worth getting your friends and family involved to keep you on track. Perhaps you ask that there’s a ban on work chat or, if someone spots you checking your emails, ask them to remind you that you pledged not to do that.
Do some personal admin
Look, as much as we recommend being a very Christmassy slug on the sofa throughout the entire Twixmas period, we know that some Type A people just can’t bear to do nothing. It feels as itchy and uncomfortable as that Christmas jumper your nan knitted.
If that’s you, logging on to do some work will feel super tempting about an hour after you’ve opened all your presents. Don’t give in. Instead, fulfil that need to do something by carving out some time for personal admin, whether that’s writing out your goals for 2023 or finally reorganising your sock and underwear drawer.
“For those that work full time, the chances are you have a long list of life admin that is patiently waiting in the corner for you until you have time to look at it,” says Cooper.
“Annual leave can be the perfect time to tackle your to-do list that has been piling up, so start with the things that are the most important and have been sitting for a few more weeks than you like. Not only will you feel like you’ve checked off a few things that you’ve been meaning to do, but you’ll also be able to distract yourself from work.”
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