Maintaining a healthy attitude to holiday time is important — so learn how to turn off successfully

The vacation stars have aligned this year, with Easter and Anzac Day falling in the same week; those wanting an autumn sojourn need only take three days off for a bumper 10-day break.

But time off ain't what it used to be. For all its many boons, technology has downsides. The constant connectivity offered by mobile devices has led to a 24/7 working culture that's hard to switch off from. And as the way in which we work has changed, so has the concept of taking a break.

Katherine Swan is the country director professional for international human resources consulting firm Randstad.

She says switching off means different things to different people, and it's important to define how people view taking a break.


"We used to hear a lot about work/life balance, but work/life blend is becoming more of a reality for many. Some people may switch off for a few hours when they get home, but work late at night. Others may still prefer to work regular hours. So, the concept of 'switching off' is different for everybody."

That said, Swan believes digital detoxes are worthwhile.

"As a company, we always advocate for people to have regular leave, take breaks during work days, and invest in life outside work."

Swan believes companies should be clear about supporting regular breaks, and this can be enshrined in company policy. It needs to be demonstrated from the top — if leaders take regular breaks, others in the organisation will feel comfortable following suit.

"Bosses need to drive the culture around taking holidays," she says. "Their behaviour needs to be an example of how others should approach their own holiday times."

She says the importance of holidays can be communicated to new hires through the induction process, so clear messages are given from the outset.

She also recommends people who are looking for a good "fit" in a new company need to pay attention to policies around breaks — if they aren't explicit she recommends people ask for clarification before they take on new roles.

Bosses can use simple measures, such as the wording of out-of-office notifications, to demonstrate the importance of breaks. Swan says she is always interested in the wording of "out of office" notifications, and says they offer a good means by which to clearly communicate what is happening.


"For example, you might want to say something like: 'As I am an advocate for good work-life balance, I am currently on holiday'," says Swan.

These also offer people the chance to let people know whether they have windows of availability for contact when on breaks.

If you feel you need to be available by phone for short periods of the day, you can provide a work phone number and a timeframe in which people can call you on urgent matters. There should also be information about who will be performing key duties while you are away, and contact details for these people.

"A message like this will allow people to know who to contact if matters are urgent, and give people clear guidelines around if and when you are available."

Those planning to head off on long holidays need to let people know in advance what is happening. Clear communication is key — Swan says it is advisable for people to talk to all stakeholders in the weeks prior to a holiday to ensure everyone knows what will be happening.

There is a likelihood that a co-worker will have to take on some of your duties while you are away. This can actually provide a valuable opportunity for more junior staff to get experience in certain areas of the job.


"If a senior employee is going away on holiday, it gives people who are interested in advancing their skills in the company the chance to take on tasks they otherwise wouldn't be doing. You can use this as an opportunity for people to upskill and prove themselves while you are away," says Swan.

"While they obviously won't be able to do every aspect of your role, there will be certain key tasks that they can take over that will give them new experiences and allow them to develop their skills."

People who are self-employed or work remotely are often expected to be "on" at all times. These people need to be even clearer around breaks, as they aren't physically in the same environment as colleagues or clients and people are used to them being readily contactable.

Again, communication is vital to managing expectations and ensuring everyone knows what is happening. Early notification around forthcoming breaks allows to you demonstrate you are forward-thinking and helps to consolidate relationships with clients.

Plan what work needs to be done and ensure anything important is attended to before you go away. You may feel uncomfortable switching off completely (if you are self-employed) so communicate when you will be available to your clients and let them know they shouldn't contact you unless there is a matter of urgency.

The bottom line is that breaks are vital, no matter how busy you are or how important your jo. Regular breaks give us the opportunity to recharge and reflect; rest and relaxation is energising and inspiring.


Having a guilt-free break is just a matter of clear communication and managing expectations; once you've set in place boundaries around your break-time, you can enjoy an extended Easter break in peace.