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Switching off in a world that is always on

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The Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns seem to have blurred the lines between work, home and play, making it tough for employees and entrepreneurs to completely switch off and reap the benefits of any “down time” they may be able to carve out for themselves.

“The stress of the last year has seen people work harder than ever to protect their livelihoods, which is why taking well-deserved break has become more important than ever,” says Shaun Lamont, Managing Director of First Group Hotels and Resorts.

In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, going on holiday improves your physical health by decreasing the risk of heart disease, and improving mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. Shaun says that that whilst most recognise the benefits of going on holiday, many are failing to reap those benefits. “We have witnessed first-hand the lines of pleasure being blurred by business as more and more of our guests are plagued with work whilst on vacation.”

He adds, “Going on holiday is the equivalent of sending your brain in for its annual service. You wouldn’t let your car skip its annual check-up and risk a breakdown on the highway, so why do this to your body? Equally essential to taking the time off to go away, is ensuring that you maximise the health benefits thereof by totally embracing the moment.”

To do this, Shaun offers 5 tips on how to switch off on holiday:

1. Do a proper hand over to your stand in: The key to a successful stress-free, work-free holiday is a comprehensive hand over. Ease into the idea of being away, by using your email signature to notify everybody of your upcoming leave (way before you’ve even left). Find a reliable, capable colleague who you can trust to be a point of contact in your absence, and hand over any and all outstanding pieces of work to them. Tell your clients, manager/s and employees that you will be uncontactable (gulp!), set your out of office message and update your voicemail (if you still have one).

2. Turn off your phone: As scary as this may sound for someone who is always available, this is a biggie! Unless you turn your phone off totally (putting it on silent just won’t cut it), there will still be messages, emails, news alerts, and app notifications coming through constantly. Your phone is always screaming for your attention so vow to only check it once a day!

3. Take time to unwind and take it easy: Resolve to do less. Don’t try to fill your daily itinerary with as much as possible. Pick just one thing per day – one sight to see, one restaurant to try, one mountain to climb… and then relax for the rest of the day. Laze at the pool, read a book, take an afternoon siesta. You don’t want to feel like you need a holiday from your holiday.

4. Pick the right accommodation: Where you stay can affect your entire holiday experience. If you are travelling with children, make sure you go to a child-friendly resort. If you are going away without the kids, consider a quieter hotel/resort. If you hate the beach, don’t pick a beach holiday – you’ll be miserable.

5. Be present in the moment: Delay the desire to post every photo on social media. Be present in every moment and make lasting, magical memories with your travel crew. If you want to capture the moment, ensure that your data/WIFI on your phone is turned off, so you don’t get tempted into checking notifications. Just use your camera and post the pics later.

For those who absolutely can’t afford time off work, Shaun suggests that you consider the idea of a workation, “COVID has changes the rules of work. You no longer have to be confined to the four walls of your dining room or office cubicle. Instead, you can choose to work from some of South Africa’s most beautiful spots and be surrounded by nature or have a sea view. First Group properties, for example, lend themselves to catching up on Zoom or Teams and then taking a break to soak in the scenery – a wonderful balance of work and play.  After all, if you’re going to work, why not make it the best of it?” Shaun concludes.

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