Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
At last! Holiday season is here, your chance to unwind and forget all about your day job. Or is it? Will you end up glued to a screen as always checking your emails? We ask senior communicators whether it is wise to switch off completely when you go away and for their top tips for making the most of a summer break.
Six tips for a totally relaxing summer holiday
1. Switch off – that means turning the damn thing off!
Abigail Williams, account manager at PR agency Franklin Rae: “Whilst the phrase ‘digital detox’ is thrown around too generously, I think everyone needs time to themselves to regenerate. And that should include a break from the emails too. Day to day we’re highly motivated to please clients and journalists alike, so let’s take some time to look after ourselves as well. No PRO is an island and as an industry I think we often struggle to let go.
“At heart PR is a deeply creative industry, so I like to use holidays to re-energise and open myself up to inspiration for the next campaign. Having once lived and worked in the beach metropolis of Sydney, I’m always looking forward to the next beach adventure. Somewhere I can make the most of the outdoors.”
2. But don’t stress if you need to check emails occasionally
Angela Casey, managing director of PR agency Pagoda Porter Novelli: “As a good compartmentaliser, I find I can switch off and get into holiday mode very quickly. This also means I am happy checking my emails whilst away. Being naturally nosey, I need to know what is going on then, if everything is fine, I can slot back into the holiday compartment and relax. And I really do relax. Even over a weekend I can forget what happened the week before and holidays are an extreme version of that. I am very lucky that I can switch on and off. Though if I cannot check my emails I don’t like it much. When I was on a Highlands walking holiday recently and couldn’t access my emails at all, I found it more stressful as I didn’t know what was going on. This might seem like an odd approach as holidays are total switch-off time, but it works for me.”
3. Avoid Instagram
Gavin Devine, chief excecutive of agency Newgate Communications, agrees with Casey that occasionally checking your emails may be a good idea, but isn’t so sure about going on Instagram: “Some people like to escape email, others would feel stressed to know that their inbox is piling up while they are away. I compromise, checking first thing while everyone else is still sleeping, and then once or twice during the day. As long as you are present in the moment I can’t see that a quick glance at the smartphone does much harm.
“Whilst you’re on your smartphone, though, resist the urge to post too much onto Instagram. This isn’t about being a PRO (although late-night frivolity and social media are bad bedfellows), it’s common courtesy. Posting endless sunny smug pictures whilst colleagues toil in the office is just bad form.
4. Find your own way of relaxing
Laurna Woods, CEO of PR agency Beattie Group likes to check emails too, but relaxes by doing something completely different: “A break gives your brain the downtime to re-calibrate. A change of scenery encourages creativity. Sometimes it provides the distance to help solve a problem which has been niggling away at work, and I find that I come back to the office recharged.
“Work integrates into my life, and I never totally leave the office behind. I take my laptop and check emails, because I can’t relax fully unless I know the staff and clients are OK. But I make the most of holidays by doing a lot of reading. My Kindle goes everywhere. I’ll get up early and do a yoga class, or I’ll go snorkelling to make sure I have some downtime.
“I don’t tend to share holiday pictures on social media, because I like to keep my private life private. But I understand why PR people who write a blog or work in travel may do this. I share shots of great scenery or good food, if I’ve had a wonderful experience – but certainly not a bikini pic. That’s just not me.”
5. Hand over properly before you go
Mark Pinsent, managing director, Europe of communications agency The Hoffman Agency, says that you should try and avoid having to go online too often by making the effort to brief people before you go: “One thing I do think mobile communications has negatively affected is the art of the holiday handover. Rather than devote the time and thought to a comprehensive document detailing your current workload and any actions that need covering while you’re away, it’s too easy to decide to dip into email to make sure everything’s OK, or give colleagues permission to get in touch.”
6. Prepare for your return
Sometimes a quick phonecall can save on trawling through emails says Matt Humphries, managing director at agency Babel PR: “I’ve just returned from a month-long sabbatical – a reward for over eight years of service. Fully rested as I was, I wanted to get up to speed with events at the agency before officially returning to work. Rather than trawl through hundreds of emails, I simply called the office to get a full update and catch-up on the gossip. This was crucial to me feeling better prepared, which removed any stress or apprehension I might have had about returning to work after a particularly extended period of leave. It also reminded my colleagues of my existence and that they had my full support.”
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