Picture this. It’s Friday evening. You’re off on your two-week annual holiday at the weekend. You set your out of office reply for your emails and head out of the door with a spring in your step imagining yourself by the beach with a Mojito cocktail in your hand. Bliss.
You have two whole weeks of sun, sand and sea with no thoughts of work, deadlines, meetings, phone calls and so on. You’re going to have so much quality time to dedicate to your family, your favourite sport or activity and to catching up with all that reading you’ve been building up in the last few months. You’re going to use this precious time to recharge your batteries, get some much-needed rest and generally unwind (relax) from the stresses of daily life. Wonderful – can’t wait to get away from it all.
So let’s see, what are you going to pack? Suntan lotion, shorts, T-shirts, a couple of linen shirts or tops, skirts or trousers, sundresses, sandals and of course, swimwear. Oh yes, and your shades (sunglasses).
It goes without saying that you’ll take your smartphone – got all your music on it plus you use it for all those holidays snaps (photos)- and your tablet to watch the downloaded films and TV programmes. And just in case, you’ll pack the laptop too.
Mmmm, and that’s where the getting away from it all goes out of the window (or goes pear-shaped as we British would say). Because as soon as we have our laptop with us on holiday, the temptation to open it and check and respond to our emails is far too irresistible. I realise that most of us don’t actually need a laptop to check and respond to our emails – our smartphones are more than enough- but if you’re like me I find responding to lengthy emails much easier on my laptop.
Why have I brought this subject up today? Well as it happens, I am off on a two-week break to the sunnier climate of the Caribbean, namely Barbados on Sunday. Before you all say that I am far too wealthy to be a Business English Language trainer, I would just like to point out that we will be staying at my sister’s apartment (Barbados is where my brother in law is from).
I know what I am like when I am on holiday. Ever since I became an independent teacher and business owner, I can never seem to resist the tantalizing pull of my smartphone as it announces yet another email that’s come through or a Facebook notification from my fellow teachers. I am instinctively drawn to discover the content of the message and inevitably to respond to it. This, of course, means that I never switch off from work and therefore never quite relax. However, I feel that if I don’t respond immediately I could lose a potential client or miss out on a possible project. And when you’re a business owner, it’s important not to miss these opportunities, right?
Social media has also made it impossible to totally switch off especially if you, like me, use social media to market your business. As soon as I post something on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, I am alert to people’s responses to my posts. That can be very distracting at the best of times but on holiday it’s annoys the hell out of my husband. I can’t help it. I actually enjoy engaging with my readers and audience.
Someone said that being your own boss is not a job, it’s a lifestyle making it difficult to shut down. Do you agree with that? I certainly do. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to think of work while on holiday. I find that a break away from my routine allows me to take stock of what I’ve achieved so far, reflect on what I’d like to do next and strategise. It allows me to get a fresh perspective on my business. I think that can be beneficial for all of us.
How about those of you who are employees? Do you feel yourself checking your emails and responding to them while you’re on holiday? Why do you do it? Here are some reasons I found while researching this subject.
Reduce the workload – Some people say they do it because they don’t want to get back to work with 400 unread emails in their inbox and would rather (prefer to) deal with them as they (the emails) arrive.
Can’t delegate – Other people find it difficult to delegate certain tasks to their colleagues and consequently (as a result) feel the need to report into work and respond to requests while on holiday.
Fear for their jobs – And there are a few who fear that being away, or at least absent, from the office might make them more vulnerable to sudden structural changes in the office, in other words, they could lose their job.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my work but we all need downtime
These all seem rather negative reasons. Do you have positive reasons why you, as an employee, would stay connected with work while on holiday? I know some people love what they do and cannot stay away and if that’s what makes them happy, who am I to tell them not to do it.
Having said all this, I do sometimes have to make myself switch off if only to give my mind a break and allow it to wander aimlessly. Thinking about very little and clearing your mind can be very productive. After all, that’s what meditation is all about, isn’t it? I have yet to practise it, though. Another thing on my to do list. Not wishing to introduce gender types here, however, I think men are better at clearing their minds than women! See this funny video about how women and men think.
I am looking forward to my holiday. It’s going to be wonderful to feel the sun and heat on my skin (summer so far has been non-existent here in the UK!). It’s going to be re-energising simply to take long walks along the sea and breathe in some much-needed sea air. But, I am also going to take this opportunity to reflect on what I’d like to do next with my business and to allow my mind and thoughts to flow without worrying about deadlines. I already know that I plan to work on a new e-book and a mini-course to offer you based on business communication (meetings, presentations, professional writing, cross-cultural). I just need to work out how to organise the information so that it’s relevant and helpful to you. In preparing this information, I will probably ask YOU what you find difficult when communicating internationally at work in English. So watch this space…..
In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you subscribe to and download my FREE E-BOOK on the 10 proven ways you can communicate better at work in English (see below).
In my next blog post, I will look at how the concept of taking time off work or going on holiday is seen in the different cultures. I could really do with your help in preparing for this blog post by you telling me whether in your country’s business culture, it’s usual or unusual to take annual leave (holiday). Please share your comments in the comments section of this post. I look forward to reading them.
Guess what I’ll be doing next week?!
Ciao for now
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