Out of office: Do we really switch it on?
I have asked myself this question often and put it to you. When I switch my 'out of office' on, have I really switched it on and given myself permission to relax and unwind?
Often, we have planned our breaks in advance and find ourselves waiting for the clock to chime on the hour letting us know we can leave our desks and race to the door to start our holiday. Our colleagues wave us off with shouts of “Have an amazing holiday and make sure you forget about work and relax!”
Surely, this is something we really need to be mindful of on a daily basis and not just on those precious weeks where we have an intention to relax either at home or away? I believe we are all aware of this on a conscious or unconscious level. So, why? Why do we not listen and make the changes we need in order to live our lives less stressed and overwhelmed?
On the one hand, there are some of us who forget about work whilst away and on the other, some who are just so embroiled in work that they take their mobile phones on holiday “just in case” something “urgent” comes up, or tell themselves, “I’m the only one who can sort something out” which, I am sure in reality very rarely does.
Surely, there must be one other human being around that can step in and take over? I am so curious about what this way of being is about. Is it about feeling insecure in that if we are not “the go-to person” then we may lose our jobs because someone else will do it better? Or is it about being in control and not trusting that someone else will pick up the work and do just as good a job as us?
We consistently deny ourselves the space to have what we have worked hard for and earned, “a holiday”. Having worked for over 30 years, I will put it out there and tell you that I once put everything I had into work and gave up some of my precious holiday time so that I could feel secure in the fact that work would still tick over until I was back. Who was I kidding? Work always has and always will carry on without me and, believe me, it will in your case, too.
My gran used to say to me “work will be there when you’re not” and how wise she was! When the penny finally dropped for me, I was able to acknowledge that no one - including myself - is indispensable and work will still, in fact, be there when we are not!
Reflecting back on my harsh work ethic, I was astonished at how my mindset continued to push me to work harder and harder leaving very little time for myself never mind anyone else. It was one of those moments I was so grateful for because it meant I could actually start to truly live my life feeling more connected to what it had to offer outside of work.
There has been so much talk over the years about how we need to have balance in our lives. Organisations promote wellbeing, encouraging us to make sure we are living our lives separate from work. But do we really buy into it? Various forms of media have questioned us about what our last thoughts will be when we reach the end.
Research shows that the majority of people regret and wish they had spent more time with their nearest and dearest and work is very rarely mentioned. However, hearing this, we carry on putting more of our energy and emphasis on work.
When we meet people for the first time, often one of the first things, they will ask us is “what do you do for a living?” Conversations go on to talk about what we “do”, or what needs to be “done” as we reel off a list of outstanding tasks that often means, we have no time for anything or anyone else.
I am sure we are all aware that due to our current lifestyles, we will be working much later than we may have anticipated when we started our careers. We recognise that when the time comes to leave work behind and enjoy the rest of our lives, we know it will be short-lived as the number of retirement years available to us is getting shorter and shorter than it was in the past.
So, what is it that drives us to put work at the top of our list of priorities? Is it that we have been conditioned to think that work must be the most important thing in our lives and that if we are not able to climb the career ladder then we have failed? Who determines this way of thinking?
Of course, work is important because we need to earn money to live the lifestyle we want. But we also work so that we can live our lives fully and enjoy the fun times just as much as grafting and slogging away to meet outcomes which often, put a lot of stress on us to perform and achieve which often results in us suffering in one way or another.
I would like you to ask yourself - if you were to put as much energy into living a life outside work as you do inside, what difference would it make to you and those around you?
I will also leave you with this proverb: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Meaning that, without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring.