Career Advice Career Guidance and Counselling

Take a real break

Many people think that staying plugged into their jobs when they go on holiday is essential as it helps them keep up with work and makes them look good in the eyes of their superiors. It appears, however, that totally switching off has its benefits.

I recently met with the chief operating officer (COO) of a leading financial services company. We were discussing her latest holiday and I asked her whether people could "unplug" fully when on a family break. I was surprised when she answered that, indeed, she had unplugged - 100 per cent.

Although there is a plethora of information written on this subject, there seems to be three schools of thought.

The first suggests that professionals should not set up an out-of-office message, but instead stay on top of e-mails and reply to anything urgent.

The second suggests switching the out-of-office note on, but finding a balance by spending 10 to 20 per cent of each day taking morning phone calls and responding to urgent e-mails.

The third school of thought advocates being 100 per cent unplugged. The wise COO was able to do this and found that it had many positive effects.

It empowered her team to make business-critical decisions in her absence; she showed her Generation Y team that she was committed to providing a good work-life balance; and placing this level of trust in her team had a positive impact on both their confidence, and no doubt on reducing attrition.

Of course different jobs demand different levels of communication, but if a COO can achieve 100 per cent down time for two weeks a year, who am I to argue?

Kate Harper is director of financial services for HK at ConnectedGroup