This summer will you learn if you work to live or live to work

So it’s the summer holidays in the UK, most of Europe and I expect beyond, when employees naturally take a week or two off to enjoy with family, friends or on their own.

I like to think I work to live, but I fear I might be wrong. Will I really be there 100% on my next break? Will you?

This is a question I asked myself this morning whilst deliberating whether to take my laptop with me next week when I go glamping with two other families in the wilds of East Sussex.

If I do, will I only manage emails first or last thing whilst my wife reads her book and the kids sleep, or will I feel compelled to react more frequently as emails ping into my phone in real-time.

Will I continually check my phone throughout each day, drawn to the addictive serenade of ‘pings’, ‘dongs’ and ‘chirps’ from my myriad of messaging apps.

You are thinking the same thing aren’t you???

Like me, are you also thinking what it would be like to have a phone and laptop free week or two? How would one cope?

Will my Out of Office response be enough to keep my clients and potential clients happy for the four full work days I will be out action if I leave my business phone and laptop behind?

Will I miss something important that might be fundamental to the development of our business?

Unfortunately, if you are thinking about these things first, just like I did, you probably lean towards sitting on the ‘live to work’ bus right now.

I’m actually saddened that my first thoughts were not for how I am going to be the best, most fun Dad in the world to my children. Not how I was going to be the model husband to my amazing wife who has worked so hard all year being the most awesome mother. Not what adventures I am going to take my family and self on. I feel they should have been.

Are these last questions the ones people who ‘work to live’ deal with first? Those people I envy to be honest who automatically prioritise their down time and don’t let work impact on it. Those that have questioned me in the past why my head is sometimes buried in emails, whilst they are enjoying the wonders of Rushlake Green and its surroundings.

So I started thinking about the impact of living to work and if I am indeed programmed to work before living!

I really do invest in work, as do many others, which is in essence a good thing, but surely one can invest too much. I’ve learned a lot about burn out, and reduced productivity due to poor mental health over the last 12 months, along with the steps people can take to improve their mental condition and what businesses can do as well. These are really big issues in UK business right now.

Different people are motivated by different things and will also get enjoyment and purpose out of their working style, whatever that may be. I had a conversation at the weekend with another potential ‘live to work’ candidate who suggested he did work too much but the benefit to his family in terms of what he could provide was clear to see. We obviously talked about the alternative benefits his / my children might receive by being around more! It’s a tough one.

So can a balance be found for those that believe they lean more towards living to work? In fact is it staring us in the face?

Let’s go back to my four full working days out of the office. If I switched everything off what would happen?

  1. Would my business collapse – Not at all likely
  2. Would I miss an important client or potential client conversation opportunity – Maybe but most people react well to an Out of Office response and will just wait a week or so, especially when they are in summer holiday territory themselves.

But you see I did it again, even whilst writing this. I focussed on the business impact, not the personal. So here are the more important questions (sorry to all clients and potential clients who might read this as I prioritise my family and my mental health).

  1. Will my wife, kids and friends get more benefit and enjoyment on their break if I switch off all business messaging and fully invest in them? – Of course.
  2. Will I get more enjoyment whilst I’m away from the return investment I will get from my family and friends by me being in the room 100%? – Definitely.
  3. Every time I stop to manage a business email or message, will this reset my attempt to decompress from work and therefore mean I won’t achieve optimum decompression – Most probably.
  4. If I don’t achieve optimum decompression, could this ultimately impact negatively on my mental health and even contribute to burn out – Yes.

Looking at the facts above, it’s obvious what I need to do and what others could benefit from doing, but can it be done. Working, messaging and being connected to the ‘always on world’ is addictive so can I, and others, really put my / our devices down?

I came to the conclusion there’s only one way to find out, whilst noticing my laptop battery is failing as I run out of power after 30 minutes of writing. Maybe it’s a sign.

So, talk to you in a week’s time everyone, hope you enjoy my Out of Office message!