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Expert tips to help you properly switch off from work over Christmas

This week, many people will be signing off for some of the Christmas period.

And while the festive season can be incredibly busy, it’s vital to take some time to unwind and relax.

Particularly considering more than half of people now say they are working longer hours, since working from home. 

In fact, almost a third have said they struggle to switch off during annual leave.

Some people might not be taking a full two weeks off, other might only have a few days – so how do you make sure you get respite when reminders of work are always nearby?

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, from addiction rehab clinic Delamere, has shared some tips on how you can manage your workload and properly switch off over the Christmas period.

Turn off 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,’ explains Cary Cooper.

This is because having that temptation constantly pop up makes it harder to disconnect from your work life and enjoy time with friends and family.

Cary adds: ‘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.’

Dedicate a small amount of time to life admin

When working full-time it’s easy to let a long list of life admin build up.

So setting a small amount of time to tackle it could help you unwind before settling into your break.

‘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,’ says Cary.

‘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.’

Also once this is done, and it’s a weight off your mind, you’ll feel you can fully relax into the festivities.

Draw a line under anything you’ve been working on

A new year means a fresh start, so it’s a good idea to try and draw a line under anything you’ve been working on over the past few weeks.

Cary says: ‘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 

Letting others know you’re on annual leave will help you relax a little bit more – as people won’t be wondering where you are.

‘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,’ adds Cary.

Manage expectations

If you are planning to be off over the festive season, it’s vital to manage the expectations of your managers, clients and staff – by letting them know when you won’t be around. 

It’s also a good idea to warn family that you’re planning to switch off – and this might mean avoiding any work chat.

‘To fully switch off over the festive season, 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,’ adds Cary. 

‘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 if you’re working over the Christmas period?

For many, work doesn’t stop over the Christmas break. But it’s important to recognise when you, or your staff members, might need a break.

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 over the Christmas period. 

‘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.’

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