The virtues of unplugging
Do you feel overworked? Does workplace stress exact a toll on your physical and psychological health? Don’t kid yourself: even if you love your job, fatigue affects your skills and performance. Hence the importance of taking time off — even if, in today’s “always on” work culture, this is easier said than done.
Due to the increasingly intrusive nature of workplace demands, it’s getting harder to switch off and give your brain a rest. Gil Gordon, author of Turn It Off: How to Unplug From the Anytime-Anywhere Office Without Disconnecting Your Career, notes that managers in particular can find it hard to unplug: “Everyone acts as if they’re a world-famous brain surgeon who must be on call 24 hours, and if not, something terrible will happen,” he says. “We must be deliberate and conscious about our choices about technology.”
This is especially true when it comes to vacation, when the failure to unplug means returning to work as tense and exhausted as before you left. Gordon uses the analogy of a rubber band: “If you pull it over and over, it will lose its resilience or will break,” he says, explaining that it’s the same for employees who never take time off: “The very thing that people are trying to do by being in the office — proving their value — comes into jeopardy over time.” What’s more, when you and your team members are — or seem — too essential to ever really unplug, this indicates a dangerous overreliance on specific individuals and a lack of collective resilience.
The message you send to your boss when you refuse to disconnect
Perhaps you think it makes you seem committed and professional to never fully disconnect from the office, even on holiday, and perhaps, in a way, it does. But you should also consider a few of the other, unintended signals that the failure to unplug sends your employer:
- You haven’t done proper planning.A good manager should plan so things are under control even when he or she isn’t present. If you are so essential that things fall apart in your absence, this is a problem for the company. “If things go wrong, your company’s leadership won’t think it is because you are indispensable; rather, they will think you are the problem,” Michel Theriault writes in Forbes.
- You haven’t hired or developed capable talent.If your constant supervision is necessary for your staff to perform properly, then your team members have been poorly chosen or poorly trained. If you don’t have a staff that can take over while you’re on vacation, your boss won’t thank you for carrying the load but will wonder why it’s necessary for you to do so.
- You are too controlling.Good leaders empower their teams. Allowing your team to take charge isn’t a sign of weakness nor does it put your success at risk. If you stand in the way of your teams by refusing to let go while on vacation, your company will see you as an impediment to a well-functioning team.
The message it sends to your teams when you refuse to disconnect
Excerpt from Business Digest N°298, July-August 2019