Can you disconnect from the office on vacation?

man-on-beachWhile some business people avoid e-mail and mobiles during their time off, others find it tough to remain out of contact.

Anyone who has sat on a Caribbean beach this summer will be familiar with the trill of mobiles producing an instant response among supposedly off-duty executives.

Mobile phones, BlackBerries, WiFi and sub-miniature laptops make it all too possible to pack the office along with your luggage. But how in touch or out of touch should businesspeople be?

So what happens if you run your own firm?

You might have the big salary that comes with the top job, but little time to enjoy it.

Can CEOs ever release their grip and truly take a break?

It is true to say that people get stuck in particular patterns that need breaking, making the point that if a company cannot operate for a few weeks without one particular employee, then the other people on the team haven’t been hired well or trained properly.

Remember also that anyone can fall ill, or have a family crisis, at any time. They can be taken away from work by such things at no notice, for long periods of time.

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A Penna research study among 600 chief executives, managing directors and directors of FTSE 250 companies has shown that an overwhelming 10 per cent of these people are bordering on “derailment”. This is part of a study that was undertaken on EQ (emotional intelligence quotient), which is intended to help people better understand their emotional and social functioning – to be more successful with less effort and consequences. For leaders this is a useful tool, as it helps them to assess their ability to empathise and connect with staff, which in turn directly affects the productivity and morale of their employees, especially in a recession and in adversity.

When executives take their Blackberry to the beach they are fundamentally putting their health at risk. It also shows a lack of trust in their colleagues to handle situations while they are away. They are not allowing themselves to de-stress, which can result in the derailment of themselves and, potentially, their businesses.

blackberry on the beachThe biggest obstacle to disconnecting isn’t technology: it is your own level of commitment or compulsion when it comes to work. If you work 80 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, you may find it pretty hard to get your head out of the office – and even harder to break the association between hearing the ping of an incoming email and immediately shifting into work brain.

That association is exactly why it is so useful to develop strategies that put your devices in vacation mode. You probably don’t leave Oreos in the cupboard when you are dieting; for the same reason, it’s best to put work out of arm’s reach when you’re on vacation. Instead of relying on sheer willpower to keep you from checking in on work, you can use your vacation tech setup – and a little up-front planning – to support your efforts to minimise work time.

With that setup in place, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of online connectivity and digital tools, it is even more important to get away on a very rare occasion even if it just to breathe and keep all of your personal relationships in order as well as the benefit  of disconnecting from work. And instead of apologising for bringing a phone on vacation, you will be able to relax even with your devices in tow.