How to avoid work these holidays

By Morgan Tait

Survey shows 26% plan to take time out during their break to check emails and keep in the loop with the office.

Ash Parekh says he stays on call all hours of the day and night - even on holiday - because 'I love it'. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Ash Parekh says he stays on call all hours of the day and night - even on holiday - because 'I love it'. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Planning on checking your emails from the beach or bach this summer? You're not alone. New research puts Kiwis among the nationalities most hooked on checking work messages during the holidays.

Twenty-six per cent of Kiwis planned to take time out from their holidays to keep in the loop with work, despite only 16 per cent of employees being expected to be available during the break.

More than 400 New Zealanders were surveyed by HR and recruitment company Randstad's Workmonitor, which collects data from 221,048 people in 32 countries.

Kiwis' commitment to the job was on par with British workers', but fell behind the third of Australians and 29 per cent of Canadian employees who will not properly clock out.

When it came to expectations, the 16 per cent of New Zealanders actually expected to be available during their holiday was one of the lowest rates in the countries surveyed.

In China, 58 per cent were expected to be available to employers during the holiday period, 56 per cent in India and 40 per cent in Hong Kong.

The survey also found that 42 per cent of Kiwis stayed up to date with office goings-on during the break, and 31 per cent said they had trouble "letting go" of work tasks.

HR expert Tom O'Neill said that for many the inability to switch off was a hangover from the recession.

"The global slowdown we had has almost forced many middle managers and senior staff to do that because they think, 'Shivers, if I don't do that someone else is going to step up and I am going to find myself in trouble'.

"So unfortunately I think it has conditioned a whole lot of people to see it as acceptable when in actual fact they should be switching off and really focusing on having the break."

Staying in the loop while out of the office helped no one, he said.

"They are doing themselves and their boss no favours by doing this. They think they are, but all they are doing, they're just really creating problems moving forward because they are going to be tired, exhausted and never get the full benefit of having a break."

Randstad NZ director Paul Robinson said despite employees' intentions to remain productive over the holidays, it was important they took time out to rejuvenate and unwind.

He suggested strategies such as leaving the laptop at work, not looking at or responding to work emails, nominating "no work" days and sharing responsibilities effectively around a team to ensure a proper break.

Mr Robinson said it was also important workers who stayed on during the summer break were rewarded appropriately.

"So for those who have to work, employers just need to ensure the efforts of their employees are acknowledged and appreciated."

Call me any time, day or night - even on holiday

Ash Parekh is so dedicated to his job, his email signature tells people to call him any time, 24/7.

"My team thinks that I am crazy," he said. "Everybody, including my manager, always says, 'Shut your phone and go on leave', but I like to be available for my clients."

The senior advertising accounts manager will head to India and Singapore for four weeks at the start of next month, and like many previous holidays, plans to keep up to date with his work while away.

"When I go overseas, always when I am on holiday, I check my email every night on my iPad and reply to them all. I was overseas in New York last year in the middle of Manhattan, everywhere there is free wi-fi, so I was replying to all my clients."

The Epsom man said his wife, Dipta, had given up asking him to switch off, but his 15-year-old daughter, Rhea, had taken over trying to keep his habits in line.

"I realise that I shouldn't do this when I am on holiday, but I love it."

5 ways to 'digital detox' on your holiday

* Leave everything tidy and organised before you go, delegate tasks and give out your mobile number only for an extreme emergency.

* Adding an alternative contact person to your out-of-office messages means your clients are still looked after and you won't come back to hundreds of emails.

* Ditch your smartphone, laptop and tablet. Leave your fancy devices at home and take a basic model cellphone so you can still be contacted if necessary _ but can't access your emails even if you try.

* Getting engrossed in a new book, exploring new places and organising holiday activities will help you take your mind off work.

* If something work-related pops into your head, write it down so it's off your mind but ready to be addressed when you get back to the office.

- NZ Herald

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