Ten ways to ‘silent-night’ in peace
Oliver Stohlmann’s Corporate Survival Hacks series draws on his experiences of working in local, regional, and global life science communications to offer some little tips for enjoying a big business career. In this year-end column, he reflects on measures to ensure your festive break becomes that – festive, and a proper break – and that you’re not burning through precious off-time without any relaxation.
Take this from an Austrian, where “Silent Night, Holy Night” was written and composed in a small village outside Salzburg just over 200 years ago.
Particularly, if you’ve been slaving away the year relentlessly without so much as a proper holiday, decent downtime, weekends, or other energising breaks that deserved the name: The year-end festive period, for many corporate leaders and employees, is the top-key universal opportunity to shut out the world, switch off, and focus on family and activities you enjoy. To escape the staggering demands of a frantic 24/7 business for a week or two, recoup energy and motivation in order to start out into the New Year fresh and spirited.
Shut out the world
Don’t miss out on the opportunity when, in most parts of the world, other people typically enjoy a few peaceful days. These simple recommendations can help to protect these quieter windows of time and to make the most of them; in addition, they may apply to other leave days in the year.
Start by making a firm commitment to yourself to select and ring-fence from work certain days and times in your holiday calendar: no emails, no calls, no constant peeking at your mobile. Instead, take your children out for a fun day at the theme park, volunteer at the local soup kitchen, spend quality time with your parents, have friends over for New Year’s Eve, or enjoy dinner with your spouse. I suggest activities outside the home or which involve others, as just reading a book or watching a home movie bears a high risk of slipping back into old habits, like just quickly looking at that important email from your boss... The ring-fenced times should only serve as a basis; other pastimes to be added generously on top, planned or spontaneously.
Escape to somewhere amazing
To that end, consider a proper retreat with your loved one/s. There is no better time to escape to somewhere you really enjoy and unwind in than during this time of relative peace and quiet, at least from a corporate perspective: whether it’s a modest B&B, your beach house, a luxury spa, or staying with friends, as long as that it helps you ground and focus on essential needs and detach in a healthy way from enterprise targets, looming workplace issues, or that presentation to deliver in January, then it’s a proper retreat.
To make sure others respect your downtime, set your outlook out-of-office assistant to let people know you are off with no access to communication. Point them to an alternate contact, in case of an emergency during your absence.
In a team setting, I find it extremely useful to agree a holiday roster where colleagues and managers take turns sharing the burden of emergency standby duty. Each person picks one or two ‘shifts’ when remaining available on behalf of the team would impact their personal holiday plans least; to then go off the grid to enjoy all other days, without a guilty conscience. Your peer will ensure true emergencies in the teams’ area of work are either covered by them, or – worst case – they can reach out to you as the indispensable expert or decisionmaker through a personal channel.
Pre-holiday, if you lead a project or team, create a warm moment to thank critical contributors. Release them into the festive break with affection, celebrate the year’s successes, tell them what each did well in maintaining the organisation’s performance and why you’re proud of having them in your group. There’ll be ample opportunity in January to focus on setting aggressive new targets for the coming year – just now, release them with a heartfelt “thank you” and a pat on the back.
Appreciate strong partners
For similar reasons, I’ve always found the annual performance review cycle helpful, which large organisations typically mandate on employees. If used consciously and appropriately, these evaluation tools and feedback conversations provide managers with powerful means to re-engage and motivate people, even when not everyone can simultaneously reap a top reward.
If, however, you’re not in a managerial capacity, there will be many opportunities, too, to pause for a moment and thank key collaborators and allies and let them know why you enjoy partnering, paired with your holiday wishes.
Enjoy a peaceful holiday!
“Why all this focus on year-end?” you may ask. Because it’s the one holiday period in the annual business cycle that’s obeyed – or at least accepted as usually somewhat calmer – nearly everywhere around the globe. Other main holidays regardless of faith or region, including school breaks that occur at different times, are typically of more limited, local, or regional relevance.
And how can you really switch off, while out there our globally connected enterprise world keeps spinning?
Have a great, enjoyable festive time this winter – now that in most places it’s our choice again when and how to ‘lock down’ exactly. Spoil yourself and spoil your loved ones. Be kind to each other!
- In your holiday calendar, ring-fence certain days/times to keep strictly work-free
- Schedule activities outside the home or with others to not slip back into work
- Add additional activities as you go through your break, planned or spontaneously
- Consider retreating to somewhere you really enjoy, relax, and unwind in
- Set outlook to let people know you’re off and who they may turn to in case of emergency
- Agree a holiday roster with colleagues to take turns on emergency standby duty
- Celebrate and thank team members for their invaluable contributions
- Leverage your employer’s performance review tools to reward critical team members
- Find ways to appreciate key collaborators and allies on all levels
- Be kind to yourself and each other!
About the author
Oliver Stohlmann is a communications leader with more than 20 years’ experience of working at local, regional and global levels for several of the world’s premier life-science corporations. Most recently he was Johnson & Johnson’s global head of external innovation communication. He currently works as an independent leadership coach, trainer, team-developer, and communications counsellor.