Having just come back from a holiday in Greece with the kids, I feel quite refreshed. Not because the kids were angelic and exceptionally well behaved without any whining. Even though they were great (most of the time), it was because I turned my phone off… One simple switch of a button, made my holiday one of the best I’ve ever had and has inspired me to write this blog. A call, an email, a social media flash can be forgotten in an instant. The uninterrupted time I spent with my kids has created lasting memories…IMG_2102 copy

Downtime is allowed.
How often do we get real downtime? When was the last time you properly switched off and did nothing? Often it’s just too tempting to stay connected instead of ignoring the constant beep of messages received. We might miss an important call. We might lose out on that deal. But aren’t we in danger of running ourselves in to the ground because of a business-based ‘fear of missing out’?

August is underway so we’re up to our necks in holiday season. Everyone should be taking their turn at recharging batteries and spending time with family and friends. But how many of us will head back to the office feeling like we haven’t really relaxed? The constant connectedness of modern life makes it very difficult to unplug. By the time we get home after a busy day, incessant device checking is an established behaviour that takes real effort to refuse. So we carry on checking, even if the channel changes from email to social media.

Encouraging an ‘always on’ culture is counterproductive.
Everyone is looking for improved productivity per head. We need each person to achieve more, so there is greater pressure to maintain an exhausting work pace. No surprise then that the culture of ‘longest hours worked = biggest commitment to the firm’ lives on. But effectiveness must surely ebb and flow with energy levels. So aren’t we likely to be wasting time by working on low energy sometimes, when a quick break would reboot our efficiency?

It might seem counter-intuitive to suggest taking regular breaks in order to improve productivity. Perhaps, it is hard to quantify how much we could improve output if breaks were encouraged. Easier to default to expected work patterns and ever-longer working days. But that means the real risk of widespread employee burnout must also be increasing. Surely it makes good business sense to head off this kind of threat before it hits.

The benefits of disconnecting at regular intervals are well documented in respected publications such as the Harvard Business Review. Regular mental breaks are said to improve attention and encourage creativity. Overall, we are told that regular downtime helps us do more. But still it’s difficult to let go of the belief that staff doing ‘less’ work will increase productivity.

Put out simple visible signals that regular downtime is encouraged.
Maybe holiday season is the right time to give this small culture change a try. Instead of booking everyone on to stress-management courses in September, put a couple of simple ideas in to action and see what happens. A change is they say, as good as a rest.

Here are some of the challenges that are featured in our 121Hours Engagement Platform that I’m confident will help you “switch off” and de-stress.
• Take 15 minutes out everyday without interruption
• Abstain from watching TV
• Remove all electrical devices from meal times
• Avoid waking up and checking email
• Put the mobile away when with family and friends

And finally, try leaving your phone at home this summer…