I took a family holiday in Spain during the perilous, early days of notonthe highstreet.com, and the memory is a traumatic blur.
Quaking at the thought of what might be happening back at base, I guiltily juggled my sunscreen with my smartphone, and felt equally wretched that I was ignoring the children’s backflip dives and my husband’s kind attempts to soothe me with cocktails.
I shouldn’t have worried. All was well back home and I’ve learned a little since then about the importance of time out – both as an employer and an employee – because I know a proper break is vital. I need a personal break from the business of being me; as a wife and mother, time away is an essential opportunity to reconnect with my family; and I need to be sure my team enjoy proper, guilt-free holidays too, because tired, stressed workers are unproductive and no fun.
It’s easy to see where it all goes wrong, however: the intensely competitive environment and the hideously handy technology that goes with it are what’s turning us off holidays, but it’s time it stopped. Here are some practical steps we can all take. I feel a campaign coming on…
Break the cultural deadlock
Officially declare your holidays to be email and technology-free. That’s one for employers to do. Companies should make people feel guilty when they don’t take a break, not when they do.
Book holidays way in advance
Book when it seems more do-able. Ideally pay lots upfront too, so backing out isn’t an option. My husband books ours, so I can’t back down.
Support colleagues who are going away by fielding their emails, and they’ll do the same for you. Pick a loyal workmate and name them in your out-of-office notification. That way, you can work on the basis that if something truly urgent comes up, they’ll email you, and you can ignore everything else – even if you are tempted to take a peek at your smartphone while sunbathing.
Bring back Sunshine Drinks
It was once almost obligatory for happy holiday-goers to buy their colleagues a parting drink before being cheered on their way. Better culturally than working up to the last minute then slipping off making your excuses.
And on a national level, let’s learn from our friends in Italy
Have a full national (or at least companywide) shut down. It means a unified sign-off, holidays taken seriously, and no-one bothering anyone too much on the slopes/ beach. Happy holidays!