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How to encourage your employees to switch off

6 Mar 2019

It can be hard to switch off, especially when you’re a manager. Hays’ Jane McNeill is here to not only help you switch off, but to encourage your team to do the same.

Whether it’s just for the evening, the weekend or you’re taking a well-deserved break on holiday, it can be hard to stop the never-ending to-do list whizzing through your mind, especially when there are more things to do at work than there are people to do them.

If you find it hard to relax and let go of work when you leave the office, you’re not on your own. We’re ever more connected these days and, with mobile work phones, the ability to check email from anywhere and the temptation to remotely access the company network from home, it can be hard to feel like you’re truly away from the office and able to unwind.

But it’s not only vital that you switch off for your own wellbeing. As a manager, it’s equally important that you encourage your team to switch off and revitalise when they’re not in work.

So, why is it important to switch off?

A good rest can make all the difference to your productivity, and that of your team. It’s not a coincidence that some of the best ideas occur to people in the shower. Your mind needs the chance to daydream to solve problems, to organise thoughts and to process all the input from the day.

Getting away from it all on holiday can also have massive benefits in terms of resting the mind and body, but also by introducing new experiences, places, people and cultures, which can lead to new ideas and bring solutions to problems that might not have been thought of without the break.

On the other hand, if you can’t switch off and take a proper break, this can affect your ability to sleep through the night, leading to health problems caused by stress and being overtired. And you’ll be less productive, not only because of the lack of sleep, but simply because the human brain needs the downtime to be able to focus better the next day.

So, how can you switch off and encourage your teams to do the same?

1. Guilt-free breaks

Most important of all, stop feeling guilty about taking time off. Also, encourage your team to feel that they are allowed to have holidays, to relax at night and at the weekends, and that they have no need to feel guilty for it.

It’s equally important that this is encouraged from the top of the business down, and that everyone, from the CEO and the directors to the office junior, is seen to enjoy taking guilt-free holidays and breaks.

2. Your to-do list

Write lists and set goals for yourself for what you want to get done each day and encourage your team to do the same. Not only is there something very satisfying about ticking off all the items on your to-do list, but you’ll feel more productive, be more productive and, more importantly, be able to stop thinking about everything work-related once you leave for the day.

If you’re the type that can’t let go if you have unfinished work, try planning large tasks for earlier in the day so you know they won’t be left incomplete overnight, or break them down into smaller tasks that you know you can get done in a day.

3. Set and enforce boundaries

Set a great example for your staff by leaving them to enjoy their personal time without sending them emails or texts. Let them have their nights and weekends off and do the same for yourself. Make sure your team knows that they are not expected to pick up calls unless it’s during work time, and they’ll thank you for it with a whole lot more productivity when they are in the office. You’ll all benefit from the chance to recharge and spend time with friends and family.

4. Mobile phones

There’s nothing worse than drifting gently off to sleep under fresh sheets on a comfortable bed only to be wakened by message notifications and a ringing work phone. Your time is your time. If you must leave it on, don’t take your work phone into the bedroom with you.

For preference, turn your phone off altogether. Cataclysmic events will not occur just because you didn’t check your phone at midnight to see that one last message. Unless you’re on call, whatever it is will still be there in the morning and you’ll be much more refreshed and ready to deal with it if you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

5. Handovers

If you or someone from your team is about to leave for a holiday, a comprehensive handover is the best possible thing for everyone. Not only does everyone in the office know what is coming up and what’s left to do during the holiday period, but the lucky escapee can leave the office and relax on their holiday, secure in the knowledge that they don’t have to wonder or worry about work.

6. Time to yourself

It’s so important that you take time to do the things that feed your soul when you’re away from work. Whether it’s exercising for an endorphin boost, or getting a full body massage and a facial, seeing friends, having dinner or even just relaxing with a good book, do what you need to do to get your mind off the office and to recharge.

7. Staffing levels

If everyone is running around firefighting, has a massive backlog and cannot find time for breaks, it’s time to look at staffing levels and new recruitment.

While you and your team are probably happy to do extra hours outside of work for a short period of time, perhaps to launch a new product or work on a particular project, long-term this can have a very bad effect on staff morale and productivity.

If you know it will only be for a short time, temporary recruitment can be a great way to get through a backlog or the yearly peak without your permanent employees having to do ridiculous hours and getting overstressed.

It’s clear that there is an awful lot to be gained both on a personal and a professional level by taking time for yourself away from work, and making sure your teams and the rest of the business feel comfortable enough to do the same.

By Jane McNeill

Jane McNeill is managing director of both New South Wales and Western Australia at recruiting expert Hays.

A version of this article previously appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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