Where are you off to this summer? The coast? The mountains? The forest? Perhaps you have a holiday home in quiet rural idyll.
For most Europeans the summer means lazy days by the beach or relaxing in the countryside, in short – getting away from it all with our families. Or so we all like to imagine. In reality though, it can be hard to leave work behind completely. Most of us end up juggling holiday plans and work commitments as we continue to check in with the office while we’re out.
In the same way that our daily work and home lives are intermingling more and more – think of how you take a couple of hours out to take your child to their piano lesson, or go to a quick gym class, but then finish up your work at home in the evening – so too are our holiday and work lives. It’s not unusual for executives to do some conference calls and regularly check their emails while on holiday, particularly if they’re going on a longer break. As a result we’re increasingly looking for the flexibility to be able to work while also being able to spend time away with family and friends.
Working on holiday certainly isn’t best practice, but if you need to do it, here are five tips to help you do be more efficient this summer:
1. Consider the principles of Smarter Working before you depart
The foundations of Smarter Working lie in making the most of people, places, and technology. The approach encourages people to make any place they’re comfortable working their workspace and embraces innovation to boost efficiency for both the business and the individual. For example it advocates using the technologies and devices aligned with our individual workstyles.
No-one wants to work more than they need to, especially on holiday. Smarter Working can provide a good framework to ensure you’re as productive as possible in the time you do work. Considering the principles behind smarter working before you leave for your break, and planning how you can use them to help you work more efficiently this summer, can help you make the most of those times when you are on your work laptop.
2. Set aside a specific time and place for your work
You’re on holiday, so if you are going to work, it is important that you contain or limit this – not least because it impacts the people you are with. These days modern technology, like powerful headsets, cloud-based software and 4G, means you can work from pretty much anywhere.
However, having a specific table or place where you check emails, complete documents or call your colleagues while on holiday can be extremely beneficial. It means that psychologically you can ring-fence your work. Similarly, if you put aside a certain amount of time each day to work, you can avoid working-holiday creep where your job encroaches more and more on your vacation.
3. Invest in a quality headset
For most executives, day-to-day work involves a number of calls, both video and audio. If you’re working while away with your family, it’s quite likely that you’re using a shared space, for example the lounge of a holiday apartment, for these calls. Let’s be honest, this can be disruptive for both you and the people you are on holiday with. Background noise can also be very distracting when you’re concentrating on other tasks.
In fact, a recent Oxford Economics study found that 64 percent of employees believe that blocking out distractions increases their productivity. Similarly, a study from the University of California Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back to a task after an interruption.
A lightweight, wireless headset with active noise cancellation (ANC) can help you work easily, comfortably, and distraction-free from almost anywhere and therefore are a sensible investment.
4. Try a collaboration aid
One of the core principles of smarter working is finding ways to be more efficient. Collaboration is one of the most obvious. Being able to IM a colleague or hop on a video call just as easily as you would send an email, makes work so much more social and enables closer working and better sharing of ideas.
With so many collaboration tools on the market today, it’s important to find one that suits your style of working, be it an enterprise UC app or Facebook group. If you’re going to be away for a few weeks, you might also consider setting up a regular weekly group collaboration, like a hangout on Google+, with your team.
5. Use unified communication
A truly unified communications (UC) system should allow you to communicate without thinking about the medium is best to use. True UC lets the infrastructure worry about the technological capabilities, thereby promoting absolute flexibility. For example, intelligent presence will automatically notify the user if a contact is available, and on which medium they are best contactable.
From the simple, for example number forwarding, to the complex – say allowing you to hop between Skype software and Microsoft Word instantaneously – unified communication offers many benefits to executives trying work as efficiently as possible, enabling them to fit more work into a single hour. And the really good news is that most businesses these days do provide their employees with unified communication.
Taking advantage of these tools can help improve your productivity, give you more control of your communications and makes it not only easier for your colleagues to keep in touch with you while you’re out of the office.