Can’t take a break? How to stay energised when there’s no room for holidays

Shevonne Joyce. Source: supplied.

Spring has arrived, and from flight sales to Christmas trees in stores, there are plenty of reminders that the end-of-year slowdown is just months away.

For many, this time of year is an excuse to start researching holidays in their lunch breaks, but company founders are rarely so lucky. With December and January peak times in several sectors, the final few months of the year are more likely to threaten burnout than a beach break.

So as you take on the hectic day-to-day with no promises of a beach reprieve, how can you build in time to recover? Here are three ideas.

The “micro break” and engagement at work

In the 24/7 economy, scheduling breaks has become a literal art form for some. From brewing a good cup of tea to a five minute all-staff meditation session, leadership blogs are littered with ways to take time out, even if you can’t get away.

However, research into the exact value of “micro breaks”, or short periods of rest during the work day, suggests there’s much more to preventing burnout than simply getting up from your desk for two minutes.  

Earlier this year, associate professor at Portland State University Charlotte Fritz explained to the Harvard Business Review that her team’s research has found taking small non work-related breaks throughout the day doesn’t necessarily leave you feeling more energised.

Instead, Fritz and her team found that “work-related tasks, and specifically tasks that were associated either with learning something new, realizing the meaningful pieces about your work, or connecting positively with others at work, those were the ones that seemed to be related to feeling energized”.

If you can’t get out of the office, prioritising positive connections with people around the work you are completing might be the best way to stay focused, instead of taking an extra coffee break throughout the workday. However, Fritz says a proper holiday, and completely disengaging from your work, has been found to ward off burnout.

A holiday might seem like a pipe dream, but Fritz says this doesn’t need to be for long: current research suggests the relaxation effects of a holiday wear off pretty quickly once you return, so she recommends taking a few super quick breaks, instead of blocking out the time to be away from your business for weeks.

Read more: Taryn Williams on how to avoid burnout as an entrepreneur

Delegation and focus

Taking even a short break from your business is made all the easier if you have good people around you, says Tania Taylor, co-owner of adventure trip company Wild Women on Top.

To me the key points are to hire well and empower your team! Let them take some of the load. This allows you to take much needed breaks, to rest and recharge,” Taylor says.

Taylor’s business is in the game of helping clients take part in challenging adventures, and she observes for many business owners, the task should be thinking about what might happen if you don’t take a break.

Ask yourself whether your business will fail if you took a mini-break, a long weekend or a couple of days off. Note: it might fail if you don’t!”

Her advice is to hire staff that can be empowered in their roles, so it doesn’t become critical that a business owner is in the office for every waking moment.

Elsewhere in the business world, some of the country’s most well known companies are also prioritising building well-rounded teams so that their staff can focus on the things that matter to them.

Half of the businesses on this year’s list of the 50 best places to work in Australia offer staff compressed work weeks, giving workers the option of completing more hours on certain days to free up their weeks around other commitments.

Seventy-four percent of these businesses also offered staff paid time to engage in volunteer work elsewhere in the community.

Many companies, like legal startup PEXA, signaled a focus on providing time for staff to pursue their passions outside of work, with the aim of creating a better workplace culture.

PEXA’s ‘What I Love Doing’ program allows staff to explain their interests outside of work and then develop “creative ways” for them to grow those interests.  

“When individuals’ personal lives are fulfilling, their work lives are more satisfying,” the company explained.

Use what works for you

In the startup stage, however, many businesses might not have the resources to create formal programs for staff to spend time on other interests.

In these situations, finding time to energise yourself and your staff f is about focusing on small things you enjoy, says business mentor Shevonne Joyce.

A budget-friendly idea is getting away from your desk and putting on some music to dance solo to,” she suggests.

A quick all-staff 3:00pm dance break could also help break up the day while allowing focus on your colleagues and work environment in a new way, she says.

If you’re working from home or remotely, Joyce recommends thinking about what treats or sustenance can come to you: “getting little gift boxes or retreat boxes sent to yourself” can allow you to treat yourself or be a convenient way to make sure you have the food you enjoy eating close to hand. 

However, when it comes to planning bigger picture ideas to ward off burnout, Joyce believes the most effective way to take care of yourself is to plan caring for yourself in the same way you would plan other business tasks.

“I book self-care meetings with myself. This is my time to get away from my desk for 30 minutes or so. I schedule it into my calendar like any other meeting and treat this time as sacred,” she says.

This could allow you to review and check in with yourself without spending a massive chunk of your work day panicking about the next time you can rest, she says. 

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