Wellbeing | How to hang on to that 'holiday feeling'

How to hang on to that 'holiday feeling'

Tracey Ward, Head of Business Development and Marketing at Generali UK Employee Benefits, interviews Moira Marshall, Alliances Manager and Counselling Psychologist at LifeWorks; Generali UK’s wellbeing partner and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider

For most people holidays from work can do wonders for their mental and physical health. However, all too often this becomes a distant memory when work kicks in again. In this interview, Tracey discusses with Moira how to maintain that post-holiday boost. Also, how to achieve a better work-life balance throughout the year.

Tracey: The days are now getting ever shorter and I’m sure many have experienced the back to work blues in recent weeks. What suggestions would you give to try to help people overcome this?

Moira: I think sometimes we almost put ourselves into that mindset; a mindset that says we can only have that feeling in the summer months when the weather is warm, and the days are long and carefree.

There are things we can do to change our own mindset when we come back into work. We can try to take the things that are great about holidays into the rest of the year.

We need to ask ourselves: what are our priorities? What’s important to us?

A lot of the time, holidays are with family or friends. We’re socialising. We’ve put down our technology, switched off our email. We can sit back and think to ourselves, right I can switch off that responsibility and enjoy life.

So how can we make time during the regular days, weeks and months to do some of that; some of the things we really enjoyed doing over the summer.

For some, it might be about being outdoors. This can be enjoyed any time of the year.

Things like planning family days out can also be done any time. Not every weekend has to be spent doing chores or running kids everywhere.

You can build in time to have a family picnic or a day out

Even date night as a couple. Putting the phones down and spending quality time as a couple.

Make a list of the things you’d really like to be doing – with family, with friends, or just on your own. Anything from reading a book to watching a TV show or movie, visiting local attractions or going to the beach.

And then plan time to do these things.

Tracey: Do you think this is made easier or harder by working from home?

Moira: More of us now have the ability to work from home and this can be a blessing or a curse depending on your circumstances. It takes some time to learn how to navigate that well; to make it work well for you.

But with that, a lot more companies are now also giving their employees the opportunity to work flexibly. And that sounds fantastic but what does it mean in practice. We tend to think it means writing an email after the kids have gone to bed. We don’t always acknowledge that it means managing your time in a way that works well for you, but that also means the work gets done.

It gives you scope to prioritise what’s important. This is about balancing out the chores, the responsibilities, the family life with really living life and enjoying what you do.

Tracey: That sounds great in principle, but how can we do this in practice? How do we create those healthy boundaries?

Moira: Some ideas that actually came from someone senior in our business are: you might be working in the evening after the kids have gone to bed, which is fine, but respect your time and that of other people by not sending messages out of hours, because then you’ll make that person feel obliged to respond. Look at the different platforms you have in your workplace and set your notifications to silent, so you’re not disturbed out of hours. And if you do want to work out of hours, send delayed emails so that they go the following day. That works really well in a global company, ensuring emails get to the recipient at a sensible time of the day.

Also, if you see that someone’s ‘out of office’ is on, stop adding them in to emails.

Put something on your ‘out of office’ message that says your company works flexible hours, if that’s relevant, so that the recipient knows not to expect an immediate response.

Block out time on your calendar. Remote workers especially don’t always build in time for lunch or breaks, whereas when you’re in the office you’re more likely to do this.

Finally, set focus time in your calendar, so you don’t feel overburdened by feeling you have to respond to emails. This allows you to give a piece of work your full attention. And, during those times, check that the settings on your company platform ensure that you’re not disturbed.

This is all about managing your time. Working in a way that works for you, not that you believe works for everyone else. That can lead to overwhelm.

Key to all of this is managers leading by example. When your superiors are actually showing what it is to work flexibly, showing what it is to prioritise family, and showing what it is to prioritise your own physical and mental health, that gives you permission – it says to you “I can actually do this and it’s OK”.

Tracey: In LifeWorks’ experience, what does EAP usage look like during the summer months – what does it tell us?

Moira: Often the volume of calls around anxiety and depression and personal stress tend to dip. This seems to suggest that people are taking time out and not worrying about what comes next to the same extent.

That doesn’t mean that no-one suffers from stress, anxiety or depression in the summer of course. But when we give ourselves the opportunity to take a break, it impacts on us personally – on our mental health – to the point where we feel more energised and revitalised. Some of this is from social contact, some is simply from the sun.

But it’s also got a lot to do with the fact that people are just doing what they love to do. It’s all too easy when work kicks in to just think, I’m too busy. Sometimes just telling yourself that you can stop and let go really helps.

Some things that impact too are that you might see on social media people doing a photo dump after their holiday, but you’re not necessarily getting the same messaging as you get at other times of the year. That in itself might be challenging though – if you can’t take holiday, if you’re struggling financially, seeing this can get you down. We’d be silly to think that everyone has a fabulous time over the summer.

Tracey: What sort of issues do you see presenting to the LifeWorks EAP around this time?

Moira: Some of the trends we see in the summer include relationships; whether with partner, children, friends or work colleagues. Things around caregiving come up regularly. Also, grief can resurface, as some will experience loneliness if they don’t have a holiday to share with someone.

We spend so much of our time rushing – rushing to get things done, to get to work, taking kids to places, juggling work and life - we’re not always stopping and connecting with our significant others. We can end up getting into a rut where we’re just passing on information about things that need to be done, instead of really connecting with someone.

We start to grow apart. Then on holidays we’re suddenly spending a lot of time with each other. You can forget how to connect. Relationships do involve time and effort.

If you don’t have someone in your life and you’re looking at photo dumps of someone’s holidays it can be isolating, Also, if you’re not taking leave and everyone else at work is, this can add to isolation too.

The EAP provides that space and time to connect, whatever the problem and whatever the time of year.

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All information contained herein represents the views and opinions of the author as at the date of writing and is provided for general information only. Nothing herein constitutes or is intended to constitute financial or other form of advice and no individual should rely upon the information provided in making a specific investment decision without first seeking independent professional advice.

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