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Out of Office – and Meaning It!


July 15, 2014

This infographic that has been shared a lot on LinkedIn recently.  You’ll probably have seen it – it describes the emotional rollercoaster that many of us go on during a vacation period.  It certainly makes me smile as I can relate to many of the stages it illustrates. The inference behind the graphic is one of light-heartedly poking fun at ourselves for not enjoying our holidays because we keep thinking – and worrying – about work.  So, unless you’re visiting a theme park or fairground during your annual break from work, do you really want to ride this rollercoaster?

It depends on what you want from your annual leave – for example a change of scene, time with family and friends, adventure, a rest, a recharge of energy?  Would you like to find ways of not letting thoughts of work spoil your enjoyment of your holiday?

Here are a few tips for making the holiday rollercoaster a little easier to ride or even to avoid riding it at all! They could help you really mean your “Out of Office” message.

Decide before you go: choose how much time you are prepared to devote to work while you are on leave. Make sure you are comfortable with your choice.

Manage stakeholder expectations: agree with those who you are going on holiday with how much time you need to spend on work matters.  Use your “Out of Office” message to state your availability for contact.

Choose your thinking/worrying time: while it’s almost impossible to avoid thoughts and ideas about work coming to mind, you can choose specific times to dedicate your thinking to your job. This technique is proposed by therapists for dealing with anxiety and is really useful in keeping worries under control.  You will also remain ‘present’ with your family and friends while on holiday rather than being or acting distracted.

Bring closure to your thinking: to avoid going over the same thoughts ask yourself “what have I decided to do about this?”

Choose talking time: it’s OK to talk about work – choose your moments. A key point here is to notice how much you want to talk about work.  Is it enough – or too much?

Keep notes: in the same way as you might keep a notepad by your bed to jot down your thoughts so that you sleep better, keeping notes on your phone, tablet or notepad can be useful for emptying your work thoughts out of your head and getting back to enjoying your holiday.

Notice what you’re contacted about: if colleagues and team members contact you while you’re on holiday, ask yourself why this might be.  Are you holding onto too much power? Have you not given them enough information? Do they lack confidence to make decisions in your absence? Do they need your coaching in an area of their role?  Make a note and take action when you return to work.

How well do your team perform when you’re NOT there?  Get your team ready for your holiday. It’s a litmus test for great leaders.

Enjoy your holidays, whenever you take them! And when you publish your “Out of Office” message, will you really mean it?

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