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Practising well includes relaxing and recharging

19 August 2013

Yes. It really is December, already.

We’re all scrambling toward the Christmas break with the promise of sleep-ins, good weather (please), over-eating and “popping bottles”, maybe even a trip away with the family.

But how many of us are actually going to mentally break away from the office by disconnecting virtually?

An AA Tourism survey released earlier this year would suggest not many, as it revealed Kiwis could not resist the urge to check emails while on holiday.

The June 2012 survey polled 5,082 New Zealanders, showing four in 10 respondents were unable to switch off from work, monitoring business emails when taking time out of the office.

GM Marketing for AA Tourism Rebecca Cherry said the results were proof that New Zealanders had a hard time removing themselves from dealing with personal and business matters while on holiday.

“The rise of smartphones, Wi-Fi and social networking has created a society that demands immediacy in responding to emails and text messages.

“People should be maximising holidays and using them as an opportunity to relax and recharge. Instead, we are seeing more and more New Zealanders being unable to refrain from replying, even if they are on holiday,” she said.

The survey suggested the fear of missing out on events and not knowing what family members were doing contributed to an impulse to check social networking sites.

“It’s interesting to see the number of people who should be switching off from the pressures of daily life and enjoying the experience of exploring a new country or city, but who can’t stop themselves from checking what friends and family are doing at home.”

The New Zealand Travel and Technology statistics also revealed that eight in 10 (79%) of New Zealanders emailed while on holiday, 36% monitored work emails, 60% of respondents with a Facebook account logged in at least once during their trip, with 43% using the social network site for browsing followed by 23% using it to upload holiday snaps.

Almost two thirds (64%) of the respondents said they couldn’t go without their mobile phone for more than a week.

Former lawyer and United Nations human rights advisor Marianne Elliott, now author and yoga teacher, says one of the major changes she has seen in the workforce over the past 20 years was the way technology had led to people being connected and contactable all the time.

“Experience has taught me my productivity suffers, together with my mental and physical health and my relationships, when I don’t take digital breaks. And recent research suggests people who are constantly connected are at risk of developing mental disorders.”

Ms Elliott says taking a complete break over the Christmas and New Year season is a “great way for me to refresh my mind, restore my motivation and reconnect with other things (and people) that matter to me”.

“Last year I set the auto responder on my email and went off-line for two weeks. My boyfriend was happy, my clients all survived and I came back to work in the new year with new energy and inspiration,” she says.

Debbie Dawson, fellow and board member of the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand, is a self-employed consultant based in Christchurch working primarily in governance and leadership development, and has 20 years’ experience in human resources.

Ms Dawson says the work environment “has sped up and the demands on employees have increased”.

“For instance, lawyers now do business by email. Clients have higher expectations of response time and around-the-clock-access.

“A text is now an acceptable form of business communication. For many of us, this has resulted in anxiety about being ‘unplugged’ and risking the loss of critical and profitable clients.”

She says unless people take it upon themselves to achieve “periods of stillness they risk burn-out”.

“The key is accepting the value of recharging.

“Only we can decide not to answer that text or switch off the phone or have a screen-free evening.”

Ms Dawson says if people are truly concerned about producing quality work and furthering their careers, then knowing how to relax the mind is important.

“To retain our ability to do good work and experience moments of brilliance, we actually need some space from our paid ‘hours-for-dollars’ work. This is why so many of our good ideas seem to occur to us when we are on holiday. There’s a message there.”


Last updated on the 17th March 2016