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Why leaders need to switch off their digital devices over the summer holidays

The summer holiday is planned. The itinerary is sorted. Accommodation is booked, and your bags are packed. You’ve cleared your schedule and wrapped up critical tasks, but have you made plans for your digital devices?

Digital technology is part of our everyday life, and so consciously deciding the role it will play on your holiday is essential.  While the thought of a complete break from your devices or digital detox may not be your idea of a stressless holiday, having time away from your devices is as essential as taking time away from the office.

Kicking the habit

Much of what we do each day is a habit – a regular pattern of behaviour. Researchers suggest that more than 40% of our actions each day are habits.  Consequently, how you use your digital devices is habitual too.

Your habit may be to check your emails when you first wake up and before you go to bed. Perhaps you doomscroll while watching TV at night. Take the time to notice your digital device habits, so you can be conscious of those habits you may want to shift during your break.

Your actual digital device isn’t addictive.  What can be addictive is the feeling you get when using your smart device to connect and engage with others. Social interactions generate the brain’s happy chemical – dopamine – and this reward system is activated when you use your device.

Trevor Haynes from the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School explains how social media apps are specifically designed to stimulate the brain’s reward system.

So, when you think about switching off your digital devices, you have to contend with habits and the brain’s reward system.

This means the intention to switch off requires discipline, and so it helps to focus on the benefits it offers.

Good for your health

Mini-breaks are fun, but longer breaks (beyond a week) are much better for providing time to rest, decompress and recharge.

Research reveals that health and well-being improve during long summer vacations.  Also, during extended downtime you get the chance to reflect on life, where you are going and what you want to do next.

Generate new ideas

When you are constantly ‘on’ and rushing, you can easily miss what is happening around you and become shut off from new ideas.

When you step away and psychologically detach from your work, it opens opportunities for creative thinking and problem-solving.  Problems are often more easily solved when your conscious attention is diverted elsewhere. 

Research also shows that when employees self-assessed their creativity two weeks after a holiday, they felt they were more creative than before the holiday.

Reconnect and build new experiences

The working world is busy and often filled with pressure and things to do.  Holidays are the perfect time to reconnect with friends and family.

Use the holiday to try something you haven’t done before. It might be a dance class, a different type of yoga or a new running or walking track.  If regular exercise isn’t something you usually do, set the goal to get your body moving daily.

Don’t overbook your schedule—select days with nothing scheduled and an empty ‘to do’ list. 

It’s an opportunity to embrace spontaneity, create new memories and potentially uncover new hobbies.

Opportunity for your team

Being away from the office is also a great opportunity for your team members to step up and show you what they are capable of.  Taking on an acting role is a fabulous way for capable team member to build their skills and confidence.

However, if you are always hovering, double checking and second-guessing their decisions, that can add to their stress.  The best approach is to set boundaries.

To fully enjoy the benefits of your holiday, you need to set two boundaries – one you set with yourself and one you establish with your boss, team members and colleagues.

Before your break, agree on the protocols with your boss and team about how you will handle calls and emails for urgent issues.  Rather than them relying on you checking emails every day (or worse, every couple of hours), get them to SMS or What’s App the alert to you.

Also, consider using the technology to help you switch ‘off’. So, have your phone automatically switch to ‘do not disturb’ and turn off social media push notifications and email alerts.

Holidays don’t come around every day, so now’s your chance to make the most of your well-earned break.

Michelle Gibbings CMgr FIML is a workplace expert and the award-winning author of three books. Her latest book is ‘Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one’. 

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