How to enjoy your holiday stress-free

Published: 22 Aug 2014 By Andy Dallas


Andy Dallas, Associate Director, Robert Half UK

Andy Dallas works with leading companies to locate highly skilled professionals in the areas of finance & accounting and banking operations within the banking and capital markets sector. Honesty, integrity and commitment are the foundation for his business practice and he is a trusted partner for hiring managers and candidates alike.

As summer arrives, you start counting down days and weeks - until it’s time. It has been a while since you’ve taken a week or two annual leave to have a holiday. It is an opportunity for a much needed relaxation and recuperation, a few days of sun, family time and everything else that one associates with summer.

Noticeably though, these breaks never work out as planned. For many professionals, the idea that a holiday is able to be stress-free is a far-fetched fantasy. Instead of thinking about the enjoyment that is to come, the standard approach is to dread the idea as it causes more of a headache then it is worth. And why is this the case? Because of the responsibility and the burden that comes with it, meaning simply it’s hard to switch off from office mode.

With global technology these days it doesn’t matter whether you are on the other side of the world on an island or not. Many professionals feel chained to their desks, mentally and virtually. But if you are willing to work on holiday does that automatically make you a good employee? Not always. Working while you are away contradicts the idea of annual leave – to re-motivate and re-energise one’s self. When arriving back to the office, you should be ready to fire on all cylinders.

But the question is, how do you prepare to get into holiday mode, rather than being on call all the time and answering to emails? The key is to plan ahead, be disciplined when you are out of office and make sure appropriate cover is in place. This helps ensure you and your team morale is up as well as making the most of your deserved breaks. With this at the forefront of your mind, here are some top tips to switch off and enjoy a stress-free holiday:

Provide plenty of notice

When thinking of taking annual leave, try and provide as much advance notification as possible. It will make it easier for your employer to provide appropriate cover and spread your task out amongst the team. This then increase the chances of everything running smoothly while you are away. At peak holiday times, organisations may want to bring in temporary workers to cover leave and handle increased capacity of workloads. If they do so, it’s much easier for management and HR departments to source a quality replacement when they have a clear idea of the resource situation.

Complete key tasks

Remember that to-do list that just keeps getting longer? Before you go on annual leave, try to tie up as many of those loose ends. Create a plan to complete key tasks before and including tasks to finish after you return. It’s not expected that you complete every task, as some are always ongoing, but making the added effort to complete projects before your holiday starts goes a long way. It will also make your return easier as you will already have a structured plan in place.

Provide a thorough handover

Holidays are far more enjoyable when you have the confidence that somebody capable is covering your work. Supplying a thorough and complete handover will keep your temporary replacement or cover in control of your tasks and help display leadership potential. Provided they know the context of the work they need to do, there is no reason anything should go wrong.

Prior to leaving the office, it is helpful to put together handover notes for each workload or client you’re currently dealing with. This should include a brief background – for context, key information and advice, and relevant contact details. If you can provide your cover detailed and comprehensive notes they are then better equipped to work effectively and avoid difficulties while you are away.

Communicate with clients

It makes sense to let clients know that you will be on annual leave. This helps to maintain relationships over this period, it also ensure they won’t become frustrated if they can’t contact you. It pays to inform relevant customer who will take over your responsibilities while you are away, so there is an appropriate contact. This is also applicable to internal staff members, otherwise they may have no idea you are away.

Setting up an ‘Out of Office’ alert in your email inbox, informing people you are away and when you will return is also another method of informing people you are on leave. Taking 30 seconds to complete, it’s a basic courtesy that is better than having people continually email you, wondering why they have no reply. In your message you should include details of who should be contacted in your absence. This will hopefully help minimise the number of actions required of you when you get back in the office.

Switch off your work devices

With the world globally connected, smartphones and tablets are at your disposal. What’s to stop you from replying to email and answering calls? Cloud computing allows access to files, documents, software and applications online as well. This means you can work remotely anywhere if need be, but you probably shouldn’t.

The temptation to do an hour’s works here, a day’s work there; before you know it you are missing dinner with your partner and heading to the beach with your kids. Decide before leaving to not make calls, don’t organise a web conference or check emails while you away. These are all guarantees to draw you back into work. The best thing to do is turn your work mobile off, or even better, don’t bring it.

Have fun

It’s easier said than done, but planning events and activities you enjoy are a great way to de-stress while on holiday. Taking leave to go on a family holiday will be better that spending a week doing DIY tasks around home or watching it rain outside.

Break the 9-to-5 norm. Take in a tourist attraction, try dinner somewhere new or even jump on a jet-ski or cruise – just do something that is different to what you normally do. If you’re having fun you won’t have time to worry about work and what could be going wrong back at the office. It can all wait until you arrive back Monday morning.


Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. For more career-related and workplace advice visit or follow us on

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