Reviewed by Dr Lee Smith, Associate Professor of Public Health​

Since more people have started working from home, over two fifths (45%) have claimed that they now work longer hours during the week than when they were going into the office. 

In fact, almost a third of workers have revealed, that they struggle to know how to fully switch off from work during their annual leave and personal time. 

With this in mind, we’ve asked Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Advisory Board Member at Delamere, to share some tips on how you can manage your workload over and what you and your managers can do to help you relax. 

Switch off all notifications 

If you have notifications going to your phone consistently throughout the day including work emails, Slack or Microsoft Teams, make sure to switch the pop-ups off while you are taking a much-needed break. 

Having the temptation to check emails constantly while you are off, makes it harder to fully disconnect from your work life when you are trying to catch up with friends and family.

If switching off notifications doesn’t work for you, it might be an idea to delete any work-related apps to stop you from checking in on what’s going on while you are on holiday. 


Tackle your to-do list 

For those that work full time the chances are, you have a long list of life admin that is patiently waiting in the corner for you until you have time to look at it. 

Annual leave over the festive period can be the perfect time to tackle your to-do list that has been piling up all year, so start with the things that are the most important and have been sitting for a few more weeks than you like.

With a tipple in your hand not only will you feel like you’ve checked off a few things that you’ve been meaning to do but you’ll also be able to distract yourself from work. 

Draw a line under anything you’ve been working on

Sometimes the best way to let yourself forget about work while you relax over the festive season is to draw a line under anything you have been working on the past few weeks. 

This means, not leaving any pieces of work half-finished, and making sure you are on top of your inbox before you clock off for your annual leave.

Having everything boxed off will not only reduce anxiety while you are trying to relax but will also mean you come back in the new year to a fresh start.  


Set up an out of office 

An easy way to switch off from work during the festive period is to set up an out of office on your email address.

This is will let managers and anybody who usually tries to contact you via email, know that you won’t be checking your inbox during the dates you have stated. 

Once this is set up assure yourself that people will see your out of the office and stick to it, so you don’t feel that you need to keep checking your emails while on annual leave. 


Manage expectations 

If you are planning to be off over the festive season, then it’s important that before you do, you manage the expectations of your managers, clients and staff, by telling them as early as possible when you intend to be out of office. 

To fully switch off, it is also important that you manage the expectations of your family and friends as well as work colleagues that might contribute to your work life.

If you find it difficult to take time away from your job, remind loved ones that you are trying to relax and any talk of work might make you stressed or feel the need to check your emails. 


What can you do to avoid work addiction if you struggle to put down your laptop?

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, says “If the last 20 months have taught us anything, we should be taking time off over the holidays to relax with loved ones. People are now working harder and longer hours than ever before and should use breaks, evenings and their weekends  as a way to disconnect from corporate life.

This means if you have emails or messages coming to your phone, switch them off so that you aren’t distracted or thinking about work when you should be relaxing. Having the temptation to look at work emails while off can mean you end up going back after the holidays more tired than when you left, because you didn’t fully disconnect.” 

If you are working during evenings and weekends, how can you relax while others are off?

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, says “Given the nature of your job role, like working in the healthcare or hospitality industry, staff often do more hours than usual. It is, therefore, the job of employers or line managers to make sure that staff are not overworking so they have enough time to rest.

“If you are concerned that a member of staff is unable to leave their job alone, there are a few telltale symptoms that you can look out for including acting withdrawn, looking physically exhausted, over-using substances like alcohol or drugs or using work as a form of escape.”

What can employers do to help their staff manage their workload while employees are working from home? 

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, says ”It is important that employers give staff enough time to relax so they feel refreshed and energised. To help keep work addiction to a minimum, managers should not send any kind of email outside of working hours, even if it’s work that can wait until the new year. For those that might struggle with addiction to their job, receiving an email like this could cause the person to start working again when they should be resting.

“Countries including France and Portugal have recently brought in legislation that bans managers and employers from doing so, while some companies will choose to shut down the server altogether. “

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