Which ‘out of officer’ are you? How stress-free will your Christmas holiday really be?

Research conducted by Reed has found that a lot of workers struggle to switch off from work when on holiday, with nearly two-thirds (61%) thinking or worrying about work at some point while on annual leave.

5 mins read
Which ‘Out Of Officer’ Are You  How Stress Free Will Your Christmas Holiday Really Be  1

6 months ago

With the Christmas holidays creeping up, many workers are looking forward to the holiday season to switch off.

“Lots of people have an ‘always on’ culture, with emails and work messages now at our fingertips through our phones and laptops,” says Ian Nicholas, Global Managing Director at Reed. This is backed up by the research, which revealed that nearly half (45%) of workers check their emails while they are away or just before their return.

“Remote working has transformed the way a large number of the UK workforce plan and enjoy their time off. It’s becoming more and more difficult for people to truly switch off. A big part of the problem, if people see it as one, is the boundaries that workers set with employers and colleagues – especially when it comes to signing off for a few weeks,” adds Ian.

Ian explains that this can also lead to a prompt ‘restress’ when employees return to work, with the research uncovering that it only takes 11 hours for the holiday blues to kick in and stress levels to revert to normal once we’ve returned to work post annual leave.

“It’s so important for employees to be able to switch off and have a relaxing holiday season – no matter how demanding their job role may be”, continues Ian.

From the research, Reed has unveiled the five most common ‘out of office styles’ – which, depending on what our automated message says, will depend on how much of your work life will bleed into your Christmas holiday.

What’s your OOO personality?

“Our out-of-office (OOO) message sets the tone for how we wish to be contacted while away. Those who are more prone to stress are likely to check their phones and struggle to switch off and are more likely to be vague about how they wish to be contacted during annual leave,” explains Ian.

“In other cases, those who have strong boundaries between their work and personal life, may clearly state they do not wish to be contacted and, therefore, don’t leave any further contact details or information for people to get in touch.

“There’s no right or wrong way. But if you want to switch off from work, there has to be a limit to how responsive and available you are.”

Reed is revealing popular OOO personalities:

  • ‘The secret stresser’– someone who leaves their work phone behind but spends the whole holiday worrying about work.

If you’re a secret stresser, your OOO may sound similar to this: “Thanks for your email but I’m currently off for the Christmas period. I will get back to you on my return.” But what you really mean is: “Thanks for your email. I’m currently off for Christmas thinking about your email and worrying about catching up. I will get back to you on my return.”

  • ‘The crisis checker’– someone who needs the reassurance that there’s no crisis waiting for them at work to get them through the day.

If you’re a crisis checker, your OOO may read: “I’m currently off for Christmas and will get back to you as soon as I can. If it’s an emergency, please call my mobile.” But what you really mean is: “I’m currently off for Christmas and will get back to you as soon as I can. Rest assured I’m reading all of my emails each day so I can be confident there’s no crisis while I’m gone. I’ll respond if I spot that something’s gone wrong.”

  • ‘The clean breaker’– someone who can actually fully switch off when they’re on annual leave and therefore doesn’t take their work phone or laptop.

A clean breaker’s OOO will read similar to: “Thanks for your email. I am off for Christmas and will not be checking my email during this time. Please contact another member of the team or I will get back to you on my return.” And this is generally exactly what you mean.

  • ‘The leave-ism lurker’– this person lurks on their emails throughout the holiday, checking everything but not responding.

A leave-ism lurker’s OOO is likely to be similar to the secret stresser. But what you really mean is “Thanks for your email, I am currently off for Christmas but reading all of my emails as they come through each day, so I know exactly what’s going on. I’ll respond on my return.”

  • ‘The Christmas grinch’– the person that struggles to switch off at all and ends up working throughout the Christmas period.

This person may not have an OOO, but if they do, it will mirror a crisis checker and list out a number and be vague on whether or not they can be contacted. Essentially, it’s ‘business as usual’.

“It’s so important to find something that helps you to relax and ‘tune out’ of work life when you’re on annual leave, whether that’s reading a book, heading on a long walk or spending quality time with your family,” continues Ian.

“To ease the stress of returning to work post-Christmas, you can also try some practical tips before you leave, such as writing a to do list to round off your work for the year and set your priorities for your first day back.

“Taking time off is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. In the holiday season, where people often spend a lot of time catching up with family and friends they haven’t connected with in a while, this is especially important.

“Workers need to allow themselves to fully switch off to reduce fatigue and risk of burnout in the long run.”

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Hardworking or work addict? How to spot the signs of workaholism [with free downloadable questionnaire]
5 mins read

Hardworking or work addict? How to spot the signs of workaholism [with free downloadable questionnaire]

​What is workaholism?

A term first coined by Psychologist Wayne Oates in 1971, workaholism refers to a compulsion and uncontrollable need to work incessantly.

It manifests as an inability to stop working or maintain reasonable hours, even when it’s detrimental to the person’s life. Prioritising work over family, friends, and hobbies, workaholics thrive on adrenaline - seeking the rush of last-minute deadlines, all-nighters, and juggling multiple projects.

It is often overlooked as a serious addiction when compared to alcoholism or drug addiction. But, left untreated, it can have severe consequences and even be fatal. Much like alcoholism or drug abuse, workaholism harms both the workaholic and those around them. Over time, it negatively impacts their mental and physical health, straining relationships, family life, rest, exercise, and nutrition. However, unlike drug and alcohol addictions, people cannot choose to completely avoid work forever, so recovery can be a challenging balancing act which requires patience and understanding from employers and those around them.

However, some employers are under the false impression that workaholics make great employees. After all, they are willing to put in long hours, work weekends and put work ahead of everything else. What employer would not want that in an employee? And to make matters worse, our culture of rewarding hard work and commending those who clock in extra hours can contribute to the problem and reinforce the addiction.

But workaholism is not the same as someone who is simply a hard worker and dedicated, and is definitely not a good thing for your business.

How does workaholism differ from simply being ‘hardworking’?

Part of what makes workaholism so difficult to spot is that it can often be mistaken for a hard worker. However, it involves a lot more than just working long hours or being highly ambitious.

What makes someone a work addict is evident in the psychological and physical impact it has on them, which is significant and damaging to their lives and health. Regardless of the number of hours worked, workaholics are unable to psychologically detach from work which can lead to chronic stress.

What are the negative consequences of workaholism?

Work addiction can have a whole host of negative consequences on the individual, as well as your team and wider business.

Workaholics experience high levels of stress, which can lead to sleep problems, depression, severe anxiety, poorer functioning outside of work, and more work-family conflicts. All of this has been linked to poor psychological wellbeing, reduced perceived health and happiness, and lower self-reported work performance.

Here are just some of the wider implications workaholism could have on the team and business:

Imbalance in team dynamics

Workaholics can upset team dynamics. Others may feel resentful of the workaholic for being seen as more dedicated than they are. It could also lead to them trying to ‘catch up’ and match their unrealistic workloads.

Higher staff turnover

A workaholic manager may drive away valuable employees by making unreasonable demands. This will also result in additional costs to the employer by needing to rehire and retrain new employees.

Lack of creativity and innovation

Someone who struggles to switch off, take breaks, and make time for personal hobbies and relaxation may be stifling their creative side. This can lead to a lack of creative thinking and innovation in their work.

Long-term sickness

Along with the physical symptoms of chronic stress that can cause sickness, the person with the addiction is very likely to experience burnout at some point, potentially resulting in long-term absence.

Reduced productivity

Believe it or not, workaholism doesn’t equate to higher productivity. Many work addicts may struggle to strike the balance between quantity and quality of work and may spend more time trying to stay busy rather than effectively organising their time. They may also spend long hours at their desk in a mental fog because they are too exhausted to function at full capacity.

How can you spot signs in your employees?

Spotting the signs of workaholism in others, and even yourself, can be challenging, but it’s not impossible if you actively look out for the red flags.

Firstly, you may notice your employee consistently works beyond their scheduled hours. But most importantly, it’s not just the number of hours worked, it’s if they do this even when it’s unnecessary. For example, it may be reasonable for someone to work overtime if there is a looming deadline, or an unusually busy period. But if they work late or come in early even when there is no real pressure to, this is a warning sign that they may be a workaholic.

Other signs to look out for:

  • They demand perfection and unreasonably high standards from themselves or others

  • Regularly work during holidays or not use their holiday allowance at all

  • They may hoard work by taking on many projects, often more than they can handle

  • Failure to delegate or share work

  • Often work through lunch

  • Put tremendous pressure on themselves to work quickly and meet unrealistic deadlines

While many of these aren’t signs on their own, when you notice a regular pattern of negative habits, it can signify a work addiction.

Of course, there are many more symptoms that can impact someone’s personal life which may not be visible to you as their manager, but if you have reason to believe they are suffering from work addiction, it’s important to sit down with them and discuss your concerns sensitively and confidentially. If you are unsure on how to broach the topic, always check with your HR team first.

As a manager, you are not expected to be an expert in this matter, nor should you attempt to diagnose someone with an addiction, but it’s important to highlight your concerns about the behaviours you have witnessed, and signpost where they can go for more help should they wish to.

To help you, we've recreated the Workaholics Anonymous official self-assessment questions as a pdf you can email to your employees. It lists 20 questions that will help gauge if someone may have a work addiction. You should encourage employees to complete this in their own time, and if they feel they may have a problem, you can signpost them to their general practitioner or local mental health team.

Download the questions here.

Remember, workaholism is a serious illness that can have a major impact on the individual as well as the team, and managers should be mindful of the signs and take care not to encourage workaholism by rewarding unhealthy work practices.

If you are seeking a talented professional to join your team, or seeking a new opportunity yourself, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.

Navigating ‘groupthink’ in the modern workplace: a threat to creativity and decision-making
4 mins read

Navigating ‘groupthink’ in the modern workplace: a threat to creativity and decision-making

In the dynamic landscape of the modern workplace, the phenomenon known as ‘groupthink’ looms as a silent threat to innovation, critical thinking, and effective decision-making.

Coined by Social Psychologist Irving Janis in 1972, groupthink is the tendency to prioritise harmony and consensus over objective analysis in a group setting, often resulting in flawed outcomes and missed opportunities. Opposing opinions are suppressed or overlooked which leads to a false sense of agreement and certainty within a group - this makes it difficult to spot the signs.

Factors such as high cohesiveness, strong leadership influence, and insulated group structures can exacerbate groupthink tendencies.

How it manifests in the workplace

In the workplace, groupthink can occur during creative brainstorming sessions, strategic planning meetings, or decision-making processes.

Team members may hesitate to voice different opinions for fear of conflict or upsetting the status quo, leading to a narrow range of perspectives being considered. Additionally, hierarchical organisational structures can amplify groupthink, as junior employees may feel reluctant to challenge the opinions of senior stakeholders.

Impacts of groupthink

The consequences of groupthink can be extensive. Decisions made this way are often subpar, as critical scrutiny and diverse viewpoints have been sidelined. This can lead to missed opportunities, failed initiatives, and reduced organisational performance. Additionally, groupthink can stifle innovation and creativity, hindering a company's ability to adapt to the ever-changing market conditions needed to stay relevant.

According to Janis, these eight behaviours, or ‘symptoms’, can indicate that groupthink is occurring:

  1. Illusions of unanimity lead people to believe that everyone agrees and feels the same way. People find it much more difficult to speak out when it seems that everyone else in the group is on the same page.

  2. Unquestioned beliefs result in people ignoring possible moral problems and not considering the consequences of individual and group actions.

  3. Rationalising prevents people from reconsidering their beliefs and causes them to ignore potential warning signs.

  4. Stereotyping means people ignore, or even demonise, those who may oppose or challenge the group's ideas.

  5. Self-censorship causes people who might have doubts to hide their fears or misgivings. Rather than sharing what they know, they remain quiet and assume that the group must know best. (This is also known as informational social influence – where people assume that others know more than they do.)

  6. ‘Mindguards’ act as self-appointed censors to hide problematic information from the group. Rather than sharing important information, they keep quiet or actively prevent sharing.

  7. Illusions of invulnerability lead members of the group to be overly optimistic and engage in risk-taking. When no one speaks out or voices an alternative opinion, it causes people to believe that the group must be right.

  8. Direct pressure to conform is often placed on people who pose questions, and those who question the group are often seen as disloyal or traitorous.

To spot the signs of groupthink, next time your team has a brainstorming session, look out for these behaviours and actively discourage them.

Strategies to mitigate groupthink

Organisations must foster an environment that encourages independent thought and constructive criticism of decisions.

Here are some strategies to mitigate groupthink:

Encourage diversity

This is probably the single most effective way to reduce groupthink. By embracing diversity of thought, background, and experience within teams, you can uncover different perspectives. These can help locate blind spots and challenge conventional practices. Actively encourage diversity to bring a wide range of opinions and perspectives to every decision-making process.

Promote psychological safety

Create an environment where every single team member feels comfortable expressing their opinion without fear of retribution. Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for open communication and respectful debate.

Play devil's advocate

Assign a designated devil's advocate to challenge existing assumptions and arguments during decision-making processes. This role encourages critical thinking and helps uncover potential flaws in proposed solutions.

Encourage independent thinking

Encourage team members to conduct independent research and analysis before group discussions. This ensures that each person brings diverse perspectives and well-informed opinions to the table that can be backed up.

Practice impartiality

When entering a discussion, leaders should take an impartial view and not state their preferences or expectations at the start. This will minimise the likelihood of junior members feeling unable to challenge senior employees’ opinions.

Divide into subgroups

From time to time, divide the group into two or more subgroups to meet separately, under different chairpersons, and then come together to discuss their group’s suggestions.

Embrace independent thought

Groupthink poses a significant challenge to effective decision-making and innovation in the workplace. By fostering a culture of open communication, diversity, and critical thinking, organisations can mitigate the risks associated with groupthink and unlock the full potential of their teams. Embracing independent thought not only leads to better outcomes but also cultivates a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Are you looking to diversify your team? Seeking creative professionals who can help your business grow and thrive? Get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today.

Managers unleashed: why training is key to effective management
8 mins read

Managers unleashed: why training is key to effective management

​​You wouldn’t allow a pilot to fly a plane without training, so why would you expect someone to manage people without knowing how to do so? Is it the same thing?

Recent research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) highlighted that eight-out-of-ten (82%) new managers take on management responsibilities without any formal training. Fifty-two per cent do not hold any management or leadership qualifications. And 26% of senior leaders and managers have never received any formal management training.

Some managers might appear natural-born leaders, others may struggle to ‘manage’ and need a helping hand. So why, when managing teams effectively and efficiently is at the heart of almost every business, are we allowing for failure?

We talk to Reed Learning’s Roger Mason, on the benefits of investing in courses like those from CMI for their managers and the positive impact manager training can have on a business, it’s people and the managers themselves.

Watch the full interview or read the Q&A below:

Q: What do you believe are the primary reasons for investing in training programmes for managers?

A: If you're running an organisation, of any sort, you have to work out what you can do to make sure that organisation succeeds. And I like to think of these things as levers.

What are the levers that you can pull to achieve the organisational outcomes that you need? And that might be to do with financial investment, that might be to do with the way you pay and reward your staff. That might be to do with the products you make. Developing managers is one of those levers. And in my view, it's an important lever because there's lots of evidence, as well as common sense, that would suggest, if an organisation has effective managers, then its staff are more likely to be productive, more likely to stay with the organisation, and more likely to be happy.

Research from CMI has identified this case of accidental managers. Eighty-two per cent - that's four-out-of-five managers - have moved into management roles without any formal professional training. And we just wouldn't let that happen with pilots or with accountants. We just wouldn't trust people with those roles. And with managers, we do that. We put so many people into management roles, so that perhaps is the most important reason why organisations should really consider training and developing their managers.

Q: How do you think well-trained managers contribute to organisational success?

A: There are loads of ways that managers will contribute to the outcomes of an organisation. Research from an organisation called Gallup has identified that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores.

The difference between having a great manager or a poor manager contributes to so many different things. That would include productivity, profitability, quality, staff turnover, absenteeism. Therefore, if you want to see an improvement across all of those metrics, across every aspect of the organisation, one place to look would be the quality of your managers.

Q: What qualifications are available to leaders to help develop their managerial skills?

A: Management development is a vast, vast thing. If you want to develop as a manager, there are lots of self-guided ways. Even through things like TikTok and buying books, of course, but many people will choose to get professionally qualified.

We work with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), and we deliver their qualifications. People would book onto those qualifications for a number of reasons. It gives a rigour to the training. You know that the content that you're getting is robust, that the techniques you're going to be learning about are thorough. It's recognised, so you can say, “Yeah, I'm a qualified manager. I've got the evidence of that.” There's also the benefit of studying with other people.

If you enrol on a CMI course delivered by Reed Learning you get to hear the experiences of the peer group - other managers sharing similar experiences. And also, we offer qualifications at different levels. So, managers are able to pick the method of study and the level of study, from entry-level management to more senior management, that suits them and works around their job, their career, their family and everything else.

Q: What specific skills or competencies do you think are essential for managers to develop through training?

A: There are timeless things that every manager should get the hang of. So, they would be things like goal setting, motivating a team, running meetings and giving feedback. What I'm seeing, increasingly, is the way that organisations are wanting their managers to develop what have been called 'soft skills' historically.

And, a great place to start would be self-awareness and emotional intelligence. So, if you're a manager or new to management, think about, “Well, where do I begin?”. My encouragement would be to begin with self-awareness, developing your emotional intelligence. And as part of that, seeking some feedback from other people.

Q: How do you measure the effectiveness of manager training initiatives within an organisation?

A: When I'm talking to customers, I'm always encouraging them to think about the outcomes that matter most to their organisation. That may or may not involve financial measures, but in any company, in any business, in any charity, in any public sector organisation, there'll be two, or three, or four metrics, that really determine the health of that organisation. And, developing managers, which doesn't always involve training - there's lots of ways to develop managers - should always be linked to those outcomes.

We should be able to draw a link between the outcomes of the organisation and the work that's done with managers. And then beyond that, there should be some common sense applied. So, for example, if you wanted to train managers on appraisals, presumably there's going to be some evidence that appraisals need to happen, that when appraisals happen well, there are good outcomes for the staff and so on. And, you should be measuring those things, and setting a baseline before doing any training. So, then you can actually measure and evidence what has changed as a result of this intervention.

Q: In what ways do you think ongoing training and development for managers impacts employee morale and retention?

A: There are lots of ways that working with managers will play out in the morale and wellbeing of a team.

The most important relationship in the workplace for a staff member is the relationship with their manager. If that manager is supporting them, guiding them, giving them feedback, that's not only going to improve their productivity in the workplace, and help them to do their jobs well. We know that that carries across into their life. Their wellbeing, their mental health, satisfaction, and outcomes like that. Overall, working with managers is not just about productivity, it's also about the wellbeing and overall health of the organisation.

Q: How you ensure that manager training aligns with the strategic goals and objectives of the organisation?

A: Well, I've got three top tips for this one. Firstly, make sure that you've got the right sponsor, so that would mean someone from the leadership team, typically. So, if you're asked to design some training for managers within the organisation, then you need to understand who's made that request and why, and what are they actually trying to achieve as a result of that. You have to be strategically aligned, and that typically means working with someone who owns the strategy.

Tip number two is set clear metrics so you know in advance what are the measurable things that you're trying to achieve as a result of this. Whether that's to do with financial performance, whether that's to do with staff outcomes, whether that's to do with customer outcomes, compliance, whatever it might be. Get really clear on those metrics up front and measure them in advance, so, you've got your baseline.

And then thirdly, training design, in my view should be 90% commercial and 10% creative. And that's perhaps a slightly controversial thing to say as a creative trainer.

If you spend the time up front getting really clear on what the training needs to achieve, and working really hard at understanding the things that you can do with people to understand what's happening for them at the moment and what needs to change – that's core to the training. And then on top of that, can come your creativity in terms of how you bring that training session to life. And that 10% of creativity is so important as well. But first of all, you have to have the foundation of a really robust plan for what you're going to achieve.

So, the three tips. Get the right sponsor. Make sure you're working with the right sponsor. Secondly, have your clear metrics. And thirdly, in thinking about your training design, think commercially before you think creatively.

Find out how they can tailor training courses to the needs of your organisation here.