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Why you need to switch off from technology during your break

Kerrie-Anne Chinn
2017-12-14

When you’re on leave from work, do you still find yourself checking work email? Or responding to work requests throughout your holiday? Unfortunately, you’re not alone, with many people finding it hard to completely switch off from technology during their break.

You don’t necessarily need to do a full digital detox during your holiday – although it could be a good idea! But it is important to take a conscious step away from your work devices throughout the break.

We recently talked about the importance of taking time off over the holiday season.

As we said then, with our current obsession and celebration of ‘busyness’ it can be hard to step away from work, as it’s often linked to our feelings of self-worth and achievement. But running on low levels of creativity and productivity isn’t really helping anyone – you, your boss or your clients or customers.

Whether you’re taking a few weeks annual leave, or just a long weekend break, you’ll no doubt want to use this time to relax and recharge away from work.

Drawing clear lines between your work and personal life will help you to get the physical and mental rest you need, before returning to work with a fresh mindset.

The Impact of Technology on Our Personal Lives

There’s no doubt that technology makes life a whole lot easier, with laptops, tablets and smartphones offering us instant communication and convenience. But with the existence of these devices, the lines between work and home life have become increasingly blurred.

Our mobile devices allow us to check our emails first thing in the morning, finish work projects after hours and take phone calls from the office at any time. And while being constantly available and online can have its advantages, it also means many of us are finding it hard to switch off from technology after hours.

When we’re at work, we get into the habit of constantly checking our computer, laptop or phone (or all three, repeatedly!) for new messages, emails and notifications. When we do finally take a break, it can be really hard to stop these repetitive patterns.

Set Clear Guidelines and Expectations Before You Go on Leave

So what can we do to prevent work life from cutting into our personal life when we’re on a break?

According to an article in the Guardian, a survey by CareerBuilder found that 17% of employees felt they were expected to check their email, and 8% felt they had to check voicemails while on holiday.

Because technology enables us to be contacted on holiday, there can sometimes be an expectation that we should respond.

Scott Helmes, Managing Director at CareerBuilder recommends aligning your time off around your workplace’s busiest times of year, to help you feel you can really switch off.

Asking what is expected of you while you're away can also help to ease the tension around going away, and put your mind at rest while you kick back and relax,” says Helmes.

How to Switch Off from Work During Your Break

Ready to give it a shot?

Mark Cropley, author of The Off-Switch: Leave Work on Time, Relax Your Mind But Still Get More Done, believes that people are finding it increasingly hard to switch off due to “a combination of better technology and greater paranoia.

The problem is that people just get into a routine of answering emails all the time. But we need to take control of our life outside of work,” he says. Cropley also believes that employee will be more respected for it. While significantly improving their own wellbeing.

People who can’t switch off have sleeping problems, concentration problems, and other issues… they are tense and irritable, they have high blood pressure, a high heart rate, and that puts stress on the cardiovascular system. We’ve also shown that people who can’t switch off have high levels of cortisol, which is seen as the stress hormone.”

Cropley advises setting up an out-of-office email as soon as you leave work. This will stop bosses and colleagues expecting you to respond. When you’re on holiday, put everything that’s to do with work out of sight and switch your work mobile off.

You might also like to try getting some separation from technology by heading out without your phone – even leaving it behind for short times can make a big difference. And try your best to avoid looking at any work-related emails for the days on which you’re on leave. It’s just a habit, and habits can be broken.

And for many people, it’s often during downtime that they come up with their best ideas, as the brain shifts gear while running, swimming or just being out in nature, away from the work environment.

So step away from your desk, switch off your work devices, and slip into relax mode for the duration of your break – you deserve it!

Read more about the importance of switching off from technology after hours, to help you avoid technology burnout and create a better work-life balance – all year round.

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