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Leave work at the office: How to fully switch off when you’re on holiday


By Niamh Ennis
27th Jun 2022
Leave work at the office: How to fully switch off when you’re on holiday

Summer is here, which means more sunshine, more trips away and more time with family... but how do you switch off when you're on holiday? Niamh Ennis shares her top tips for leaving work at the office.

I’m on holidays as I write this article. Ironic, I know, given the subject matter, but there’s no point in me pretending otherwise. If anything, it simply reinforces just why it is that when we want to switch off, we might first of all need to take ourselves in hand and do something radical in order to make that happen. 

Thinking about it, I feel there are two types of holiday planners: those who prepare everyone well in advance by constantly repeating that they’re taking time off, informing others what can be done in their absence; and those who quietly disappear, in the hope that they don’t draw too much attention to the fact that they are currently not at the end of their emails. 

I know that I definitely fall into the latter, which I suppose many self-employed people will relate to. My reluctance, in the past, to even set up my out-of-office automated email, bears testament to this, as I worked on the basis that if nobody notices I’m gone, they will think I am always available if, or when, they need me. Boundaries, anyone?

I’m guessing that this resistance when it came to publicly announcing that I was taking time off, is a hangover from the days when I genuinely worried where the next piece of work was coming from. Having worked hard putting a good structure in place, my business is much more solid now, thanks to a viable passive income business model and I fully accept that I don’t need to be always present in order to generate income. 

Boundaries and space

In addition, I’ve developed some pretty good boundaries in my day-to-day business which automatically make the lines pretty clear to my clients, from the outset. They know when I’m with them, that I’m fully with them, but I’ve had to be careful to ensure that I protect my own time and energy too. This is something that I also teach them how to do in their own careers and businesses, so it’s incredibly important that I lead by example.

I’m very aware that when we create space – when we remove ourselves from our day-to-day routine – new ideas and possibilities come into our minds that otherwise just wouldn’t have a chance to land. It’s true that when we take a step back from the daily grind, we get to see things differently, often without trying. A new environment will do this and it automatically gives you a fresh perspective, which in itself benefits your planning ahead as to what it is you might want your next steps to look like.

Why switching off is hard

There are many reasons that it can be difficult to switch off from work, the most obvious of which are external. 

  • The very fact that we have our phones with us every day on holiday, can make it impossible to feel like we can get away from what’s happening back home. Instant access to social media, our emails and text messages leads us to being forever accessible. 
  • The allegedly much sought-after “nomadic lifestyle” has also meant that we can now literally work anywhere even when we are sitting on the beach; which brings with it a raised expectation to be “on” no matter where in the world you are.
  • For well-documented reasons, the lines have become so much more blurred in recent years, between the workplace and our home life and employees are finding it harder not to be seen to be accessible even outside of standard working hours.

Five tips for switching off from work during your holiday

There are, of course, some people who are really excellent when it comes to being able to switch their minds off easily and guilt-free, but if you are someone who overthinks lots of things, and categorises yourself as a worrier, then the act of switching off just won’t come so easily to you. 

1. Delegate

Always remind yourself that it is your absolute right to take a break from your job and that it is your time now to hand over your tasks to those who work alongside you. When they go on holiday, you’ll return the favour, but for now, this is your time to step back, rest and recharge. Just before you go, it’s a good move to schedule a handover meeting with your manager, so that you can reassure them that everything is covered and if necessary, it gives you the opportunity to flag any potential issues for them to monitor. Your problems become theirs and that’s exactly what you want!

2. Wrap up

Tie up as many loose ends as you can in advance. Not alone will this ease your mind as you prepare to leave, but most importantly, it will also help avoid a backlog for when you come back. If there are any outstanding issues at work that you think might re-surface, try to brief a colleague fully so that they can ably cover for you, in your absence.

3. Accept the facts

No room for martyrdom here, the place is not going to fall apart without you! I know you might find this hard to believe! If you think you play a critical role and that your absence will result in disaster, then the chances are that your sense of self-importance might be a little inflated. The bad news is that none of us are irreplaceable… but the good news is that none of us are irreplaceable!

4. Advance warning 

It’s advisable that the first people know of your absence is not via your out of office email responses. It’s best that you make sure that they are notified of the dates you will be away well in advance and have contact details for someone they can be in touch with in the case of an urgent issue. Go so far as to facilitate these introductions, as it will provide them with the reassurance that they are in safe hands and will be well-minded in your absence.

5. Communicate clearly

Make it clear to your colleagues that they should not contact you unless it is an extremely urgent matter. Remind them that you will do exactly the same for them when it is their turn; then turn off all the notifications on your phone. Remove any and all apps that aren’t necessary. Avoid all temptation, if it’s not in front of you, you are less likely to give it any space in your head.

Finally, the importance of planning the best holiday for you

Some of the best holidays I’ve had in recent years, have not been on a beach or by a pool sipping cocktails. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the feel of the sun on my skin or that shower following a long day at the beach, as you prepare for yet another beautiful dinner out; but for me now, a holiday implies spending quality time with myself, doing the things I truly enjoy.

Try to take a little time out to really think about what it is you really need right now. What will help you feel like you are getting the chance to totally switch off? Are you physically tired and need some real downtime to do nothing, or are you simply tired of your routine and would relish some adventure? Don’t be swayed by what those around you want, figure out what it is that you would love to do and then see how you can find a compromise to ensure everyone gets just what they need. 

This will make the experience of your time off much more enriching and guarantee that you will return home feeling rested and re-energised.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” – anonymous.

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self Study Programme for those ready to change. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis  or www.niamhennis.com