We all could use a vacation from time to time, especially after such a turbulent COVID-19 stricken winter. Research has proven that “long periods of work without vacation can lead to reduced productivity, diminished creativity, and strained relationships,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The stress of work has also been found to increase cardiovascular risks and aggravate existing conditions.

Summer is finally here and whether you love the heat or not, it is the perfect time to hit that ‘out of office’ and take a break.

Whilst some of us feel guilty or obliged to keep working, breaks are just as important as the next strategy meeting as they enable us to refresh physically and reboot our mindset.

Big corporations have recognised the importance of encouraging their employees to take time off. Companies such as Evernote, Netflix, and LinkedIn are offering employees either flexible or discretionary paid time off.

Surprisingly to many, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings takes six weeks of vacation a year because he feels it’s important for work-life balance, whilst Founder of Virgin Group Richard Branson claims to disconnect by leaving his smartphone at home or in the hotel room for as long as possible.

Here are some ways you can take some time off this summer:

Catching up with family and friends

After forcing ourselves into self-isolation this year, the long sunlit days and outdoors now beckon our name. There is no better way to catch up with family and friends than over dinner al fresco or simply sharing moments of togetherness by inviting others into your home.

Time to yourself

Whilst it’s good to catch up with family and friends over the summer, it’s also as important to get in touch with your inner self – to do things that make your heart happy. So now is the time to pull that fishing all-nighter with a loved one (or even solo, why not?); to focus on doing something with your hands or even feeding your mind with knowledge through books and podcasts.

Here are some of my favourite books and authors, which although provide light reading, enabled me to head back to work inspired and revitalised.

‘Dare to Lead’ by Brene Brown

“Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. It is learning and practice that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts. “It is the ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures.”

‘Jacinda Ardern: The Story Behind an Extraordinary Leader’ by Michelle Duff

Duff looks at the inspirational story of New Zealand’s successful female leader – Jacinda Arden. Taking a trip down memory lane through her childhood, studies and political career, this book is an engrossing and powerful exploration of one of the most intriguing political stories of our time – telling us as much about one young woman’s ascendancy as it does about the country that elected her.

‘The Infinite Game’ by Simon Sinek

Prior to writing this book, the author “started to see that many of the struggles that organizations face exist simply because their leaders were playing with a finite mindset in an infinite game. These organizations tend to lag behind in innovation, discretionary effort, morale and ultimately performance.”

The book explores how “the leaders who embrace an infinite mindset, in stark contrast, build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organizations. Their people trust each other and their leaders. They have the resilience to thrive in an ever-changing world, while their competitors fall by the wayside. Ultimately, they are the ones who lead the rest of us into the future.”

Podcasts

Another way of acquiring knowledge, particularly if you are on the go or simply would rather close your eyes and listen, is through podcasts.

I enjoy following ‘The Economist Asks’ by the Economist, which discuses a diverse range of topics from the use of language to diversity quotas, sustainability challenges all the way to historical TV dramas.

Away from the office to gain some headspace

Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, your mind can relax.  A recent article by lifehacker.com cites a study by Leo Widrich who explains how the feel-good hormone dopamine is released into the brain when one is relaxed. Consequently, he adds that when we are more relaxed, our attention turns inwards. Away from distractions, things we were too busy to ponder upon surface to our consciousness. Our subconscious can now solve problems more creatively. Now that explains the 1am problem solvers!

This frame of mind may enable you to take a 360 degree or bird’s eye of your company or business setting, allowing you to understand what is working and what is not, as well as raising awareness regarding aspects that can be executed or handled differently. Taking a breather can evoke innovation and creativity for new business ventures.

Delegation and empowerment is key

According to Forbes, if you have done your job right, you have hired the right senior leaders and given them the direction and resources to do that work well. If you did not do that by the time you got on the plane for your vacation, a few emails from the beach will not do the trick. Although learning to delegate is a lengthy process, trusting your team and equipping them with the right decision-making abilities can enable you to leave your office in confidence.

To switch off or not to switch off?

Many business leaders are understanding the importance of switching off. This will not only allow you to be in the moment – to enjoy your holiday and truly connect with the people you are with but is also beneficial to your brain. This is why the age-old adage, ‘a rested brain leads to productive work’ still stands today – if only we can get away from that phone!

You may decide to not tune out completely, yet it is important to set boundaries and an ‘out-of-office’ is imperative. Try not to go through emails when you are having some down-time but make them more intentional and structured. Communicate this to your colleagues and empower them to handle tasks when you are away – even if the way they handle matters is not EXACTLY how you would go about things, trust and empowerment is key.

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