2020 has forced many of us to take on a lot more than we imagined at the start of the year. COVID has blurred personal and work lives, leading to increased stress and a recent Microsoft Work Trend report found that nearly one-third of employees are facing burnout.
The same report found the ability to be connected and contactable has led to a doubling of after-work hours communication. So, this Christmas holiday season, how are you going to sever your digital ties to the office and really take a break?
Here are ten ways to truly go out of the office this holidays.
1. Your email signature is your friend. Start to add in your upcoming annual leave dates in your email signature. For added effect change the colour to something you wouldn't usually use to make it stand out. Christmas green perhaps?
2. Give notice ahead of time. Send out pro-active notices to clients, suppliers or key contacts of when you will be away. Hopefully, it helps nudge them to bring forward any items they want you to action, so it's not a last-minute emergency.
3. Put any leave in your Outlook calendar ahead of time. There is nothing like stamping your absence by creating a block of annual leave in your calendar. Make the title of the event Annual Leave - Not Contactable and use the Show As section of the calendar settings to be Out of Office. For extra impact also put the Location as Unavailable.
4. Forget those meetings! Start cancelling or declining any recurring meetings that happen over your break. Whether it is your weekly catch-up or daily huddle, telegraph your intentions to your co-workers (and boss) that you will be properly taking a break this year.
5. Let your email do the work for you. Turn on Out of Office (Automatic Replies) in your email. If you use Outlook, you can schedule your Out of Office for dates and times and do it for people inside and outside your company. Remember to include how long you will be gone, when you will return and who they can contact whilst your away.
6. Switch on out of office for your work chat applications. Microsoft Teams and Slack both have the ability under Status for you to set up an away message and location. You will still receive notifications, but people will see you're away on your user profile.
7. Change your phone voicemail message. Some companies have voicemail for staff, and this is an easy one to miss. Ensure you change your office phone but also your mobile. Mobile users on Android and iOS can set up family and friends as Favourite contacts and only allow calls from them during the holidays. This will help avoid calls from clients or colleagues who didn't get the notice about you being away.
8. Switch off from networking. If you're a Linkedin Premium user, you can now set an away message. Go to the message inbox, click the three dots and choose 'set away message'. It allows you to select your dates and write a message, but your auto response will only go to current connections.
9. Disconnect. Turn off notifications for work applications. The ding of a new message, chat or update is hard to resist for many of us. Switch off all work-related notifications on your phone and move the apps together into a folder like a virtual cupboard. Think of it as a digital no-go zone!
10. Leave the devices behind! If you can, leave your work devices at the office. Working from home? Disconnect them and put them away. It might seem unnecessary, but it can be the final step to chopping the technology cable to work and giving yourself a break.
Don't forget, the most challenging part to truly switching off is turning off our own mental justification to stay tethered to the office. Turn technology into your ally and give yourself the time and space to recharge, refuel and reset for 2021.
- Zaun Bhana is managing director of Leap Consulting