Can you combine a flexible working schedule that doesn’t stop when you are on a holiday?
Having flexibility in your work life is priceless and being able to work remotely is a gift, especially in the holiday season, but it can also come with the drawback of always being available and expected to respond. If you work in this way, creating the space in your work life to have a holiday can feel impossible, especially when you are free-lance, a contractor, or a single operator running a small business.
However, it is possible to have time off to refresh and reset while still keeping things ticking over as long as you have some tricks up your sleeve. Below we provide some ideas on how to manage this juggle.
Choose your time of year
If you are looking to completely switch off and not log-on or log-in, then the best time to do this is when your clients, customers and suppliers are also looking to do the same.
This is different for each industry and business, but you will be aware of when your quiet times are and when you are able to best predict when you will experience a period that will allow you to step away.
The additional bonus of choosing to take a break during these periods is that when you do step back into work mode you won’t have a huge backlog of work waiting for you, no annoyed customers and clients, and you will likely be dealing with lots of people who have also benefitted from a holiday! Nice!
Make the work hours count – be productive
If you are required to clock in and do some work when you are on holidays, make sure the time spent at the grindstone counts. Make sure you tell the people around you that you are now at work and not available to them, find a quiet space, have all the tools and resources you require to undertake the tasks you need to complete at your disposal, and sit down to give it your full attention and focus.
This will stop you from being interrupted, procrastinating, allow you to be the most efficient and effective you can be, and most importantly get the job done well in the least amount of time possible. This means greater productivity, less time spent away from the fun, and lower stress levels because you know it’s all being managed.
Plan your workload
In addition to the above, before you leave it’s good practice to have a sound plan of when and what to tackle on your holidays.
By when I mean choose a time of day, each day, to undertake your work that won’t negatively effect your holiday and being able to enjoy your time off. This might be early in the morning before the planned activities for the day kick off, or at night when they have finished, either way, map out when you can work and stick to it.
In addition to this, before you leave understand what you need to achieve while you are away. Deadlines will be better managed, and the work required to achieve them while away fully understood and planned for. Also, map out and make room for any other deliverables that are due within your limited work hours. It is also a good idea to understand those tasks that can wait until you are fully back on deck, and put them to the side for when you are back from your break. This will mean that you don’t waste work time on the wrong tasks, you will know what your workload while away looks like before you leave, and understanding all this will help you meet your deadlines avoiding any unnecessary stress.
Set and manage client expectations
Everybody needs a holiday at some stage and all reasonable people acknowledge how important it is to do this for well-being and health. Clients, customers and suppliers are no different. They will support you to have a break, especially if you have been clear in your communication with them that you are doing so.
Setting and then managing client expectations of your availability while you are on your break is also important. This is relevant in terms of the successful management of your workload, as well as providing the ability for them to be able to manage theirs. This can also act to give you more time to respond to their requests and giving you the opportunity to extend any deadlines if possible and required.
It is a good idea to let them know well in advance that you are having some time off and that you may not be as available to them, giving details of when this might be, and asking them to send you any tasks or orders that they might need completed/filled during this time beforehand so they can either be done before you take leave, or managed while you are away.
Secondly, if you are planning to do some work hours each day while away, then let them know this but that your capacity will be reduced and that you may not respond as quickly as you normally would.
And lastly, make sure that your out of office email is on providing information and details of your availability during this time and when you will be fully back on board.
If communicated effectively and expectations set, relationships will not be strained.
Shift your mindset
Don’t be negative about the fact that you have to spend some of your holiday time keeping things ticking over. Be grateful you have a career where you can combine the two and embrace it.
When you are not actually working – don’t talk about it. If you don’t talk about it, you won’t feel burdened or stressed by it, or dread spending time doing it.
Tune out when you are off duty
While living the hours of fun and freedom on your holiday – fully embrace it and relax! Reward yourself by completely tuning out – guilt free!
Similar to the advice on being productive and focusing on the work when this is your present moment, do the same when you are in the holiday part of your break.
Don’t waste these precious hours thinking about work, leave your phone behind, turn off your computer, plan and enjoy an activity with your friends and family, see a movie, spend some time reading – even take a nap. Whatever you need to do to feel like you have had some time out.
If you really think it’s impossible to take a break and not spend the whole time working, or worrying, or if you are leaving for a significant period of time and would like to share the workload while you are away to take the heat of you, then there is always the option of hiring a temporary resource.
Although this will cost you some money, it certainly has benefits. Your business will have someone working while you are not, your clients and customers will have a contact they can refer to if you are not available, and you have a resource you are able to delegate tasks to, freeing you up to enjoy yourself.
Help can be found via temp agencies, virtual assistants, contractors that specialise in your industry or field, or even short term employment contracts depending on how long you want the resource for. The good news is there is help available, you just need to ask, train and then pay for it.
To sum up, with planning, focus, the setting of expectations, effective communication, a positive mindset, and the discipline to tune-in and tune-out, it is very possible to positively fit in work into the very best holidays. In actual fact – it’s living the dream! Now the question is – where to go?