MT Expert - IT: How technology can help with the post-holiday blues

Returning from holiday needn't be in headache. Robert Whiteside, head of Google Enterprise, explains why.

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Last Updated: 29 Jul 2011

A recent report from The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) found that many employees fail to come back to the office feeling relaxed after a holiday, with 40% actually feeling more anxious on returning to work than before they went. It’s not always easy to find the right balance between having to deal with some work issues while you’re supposed to be taking a break, and switching off completely, which can often lead to you becoming even more stressed at the thought of potential problems that may be piling up in your absence. However, the right preparation and clever use of technology can help tackle this conundrum and leave you both relaxed on your holiday and relaxed about your return.

We’ve pulled together some tips below to help managers make the most of their holidays, and also for those left in the office to cope while they’re away.

•    In the ILM’s research, email was identified as one of the key stress factors on holiday, with 90% of managers concerned about the mountain of email they would return to. Aside from the usual common sense steps of telling people when you’re away and remembering to set your out of office, using technologies such as Google Priority Inbox can make a real difference. This automatically filters your emails into order of importance so you don’t have to, meaning you can deal with the most important emails first. You can even set up alerts to your phone for emails from certain people such as your best customer or your boss whose emails you can’t afford to miss.

•    Overloaded inboxes can also be a nightmare. The last thing you want is to come back to find your inbox has reached its maximum limit and you have missed an important email as a result. Choosing an email provider with generous inbox limits can make all the difference.

•    For those who prefer to keep a check on their emails while on holiday, smartphones and BlackBerrys are clearly a godsend. However, try to set aside a certain time of day to check your emails rather than jumping off the sun lounger whenever you hear that familiar beep...

•    Smartphones aren’t just handy for email checking, with cloud technologies like Google Docs, you can access and input into important documents via your mobile. This means you can avoid the hassle of searching for the extortionate hotel internet room or leaving the comfort of the villa to find the nearest internet café. It also saves having to add a laptop to the pile of luggage you have to lug around the airport.

•    If you’re on holiday and have to speak to a colleague urgently, one of the quickest ways of doing so is using instant messaging. Rather than waiting for emails to be replied to, or getting sucked into long phone calls you’d rather not have to deal with, it’s a great way to see if a colleague is at the desk and can answer a quick query.

•   For those back in the office it’s often very frustrating in the summer months to organise a meeting with so many people taking holidays. More advanced calendar technologies can automatically search through shared calendars and find the best time which suits a group of people – removing the hassle of lots of emails and time wasted co-ordinating diaries.

While technologies continue to develop and make working away from the office easier than ever before, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that holidays are there for a reason. We all need to de-stress, switch off and come back refreshed, so it’s important to remember that these tips should make it easier for those who do need to keep in touch while out of the office, and not create expectations that you will work while you’re out there.

Sensible, sensitive management is obviously key to enabling any business to continue work productively in the summer months, without denting employee morale.

Robert Whiteside, Head of Google Enterprise UK

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