How are you feeling? No, really. If you’re being completely honest, where are you on a scale of one to 10?
Don’t worry. I haven’t become a wellness guru. I just think it’s likely that your answer is a six at best, probably lower. I say that because I’m also feeling about a five. Or maybe even a four.
You would think that as the UK prepares to open up on May 17th, we would all be brimming with enthusiasm for what lies ahead. I am excited about the country coming back to life but, like many people, I’m exhausted.
We have spent more than a year plagued by uncertainty, worrying about the livelihoods of people we care about, isolated from those we love, and mourning for all the good times we could not have.
Now, as the Government prepares to unveil its green list of countries we may be able to travel to, stress-free, I want to encourage everyone to book a holiday. It doesn’t have to be abroad – it can be a trip within the UK. Whatever you want to do, start planning it now.
When you work hard, you have to periodically relax and refresh your mind. It’s important that you completely switch off from work. A weekend doesn’t cut it: for the brain to truly recharge, I think you need a minimum of a week away from work, ideally two.
I’m willing to bet you have taken very little time off over the past few months. If you did take time off, I would wager it was for some practical reason, and wasn’t very relaxing. Like a fellow BigChange director, who shall remain nameless, who took his first extended break in eight years recently… to move house. I’ve had one week off in 12 months, so no wonder I’m feeling tired out.
Need more encouragement? Did you know that studies have shown that holidays lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and even premature coronary death https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-28/august-2015/making-holidays-work. This study also found that “vacation forms the breeding ground for self-fulﬁllment and energy replenishment” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254897932.
As leaders, there are plenty of reasons that we should be encouraging our teams to take a break, and setting a good example by taking time off ourselves. First of all, the statistics on the number of people approaching burn out during 2020 are horrifying. A recent study by Spill found that four out of five workers have felt close to burning out at some point over the past year, and that the situation is even worse for directors – 89% are at breaking point. Google searches for “signs of burnout” soared 150% in 2020.
When colleagues are close to burning out, they cannot be their most productive at work, no matter how hard they try. According to the academic journal I quoted earlier, “When recovery is insufficient, employees will have to perform on the job while being in a suboptimal state, which imposes an even higher demand on the recovery process.” This is unsustainable and, should employees actually burn out, they may not be able to work for long periods.
This is one of the reasons our next Motivational Monday one of the speakers is from Andy’s Man Club, a place where men can come together and talk about issues they face, including burn out and anxiety.
There’s another reason I’m telling everyone to start planning for a holiday now – not everyone can be off at once. And the travel industry – understandably – is likely to increase prices in order to come back from the losses of 2020. By planning in advance, you can make sure that everyone in the team gets a break, without putting undue pressure on those who are left behind. It also means that people with families can start looking for more cost-effective ways to get away during school holidays. I hope that the Government will surprise us all with new regulations stopping airlines and travel companies from doubling their prices in the summer holidays, but I accept that’s pretty unlikely.
This is my message to my family, to my colleagues at BigChange, and to business leaders and their teams everywhere: go on holiday. I’m planning mine, and I can almost feel the sun beating down on me as I order my pina colada.