Sadly, according to a global study by Skynova, 80% to 90% of employees said that workloads prevented taking time off and 68% used their smartphones for work while they’re on holiday. Not surprisingly, 62% said the use of their device for work made it tough to recharge or relax. In addition, people felt they needed to check in because of expectations at work with 60% saying their boss expected them to check in.

I’ll be honest, I used to be one of these people. My laptop frequently went with me on holiday. In fact, the first time I went away without my laptop, I felt quite panicky (and I’m my own boss). Thankfully, I’ve learnt how to take a really good break. It involves careful planning, putting yourself first and prioritising relaxation, especially if you are going to make the most of your time away. I know because, as you read this, I am taking a well-deserved break away with my family. Here’s some Key Steps to help you have a proper break too and…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

  1. Plan ahead. Start by giving your colleagues and manager ample notice about your upcoming holiday. This will allow you to tie up loose ends and ensure a smooth transition during your absence. I like to do my holiday organising way in advance too. Last minute packing, adds to my stress levels. I also always do my best to be ahead of critical work tasks and finish or hand over pending tasks before I leave, which brings me to…

  2. Delegate responsibilities. If you have a team or colleagues who can handle certain tasks in your absence, delegate to them. Trust them to manage things in your absence and provide them with any necessary information or guidance before you leave. This minimises any unnecessary stress while on holiday, knowing that you won’t have a pile of work waiting for you when you return. If you don’t have this luxury, remind yourself that the show can go on without you and you’ll manage things when you get back. If you don’t switch off properly, you might just end up booked off through illness. You can’t pour from an empty cup!

  3. Set boundaries. Communicate your holiday plans and set clear boundaries with your colleagues, manager and key stakeholders and clients. Let them know when you’ll be available and when you won’t be checking work-related emails or taking calls. And remember to set up your out of office. Most importantly remember that saying NO to working on holiday is not lack of commitment, it’s self care and that should be a non-negotiable boundary.

  4. Disconnect. Take advantage of the time away from work by disconnecting from work-related technology. Turn off work email notifications and resist the urge to check your work messages. Give yourself the mental space to fully relax and enjoy your holiday. If this is really hard for you, it is important to explore why. It might be that you have become addicted to stress and urgency – I know I was. Running my own business, it was easy to justify to myself that I had to stay connected, but the truth is – I was stuck in a limiting belief. It is such a relief to have overcome it and have the right people around me to make it possible for me to step away and really disconnect.

  5. Be in the moment. Practice really being present in the moment. Engage in novel activities or just embrace doing nothing without constantly thinking about work or checking your phone. This can help you fully immerse yourself in the holiday experience.

  6. Unplug from technology. Reduce your screen time by limiting social media and news consumption. Instead, focus on being present and enjoying the people and surroundings around you. I find this one the hardest and I do enjoy posting my holiday experiences on social media. It is just about getting the balance right.

  7. Ease back into work. Consider adding an extra day or two to your holiday to ease back into your routine gradually. This can help reduce the post-holiday stress of returning to work immediately. This is one of the Key Steps that benefit me the most, but it just hasn’t worked out this time around, so I’ve had to do some extra planning. I have also been able to ensure that the work I dive straight back into is things that are not to mentally taxing.

Remember, the goal of a holiday is to relax, recharge and fill your cup. You want to return feeling energised and ready to tackle new challenges. The only way you can do this and be at your best is by giving yourself the best and taking Key Steps to really…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’


NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the
Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’