Give the gift of rest this Christmas
Take a break if you can
Earlier this week, I was chatting to other freelancers in my Discord server (shameless plug) about taking a break for Christmas and how long is ‘acceptable’ to take.
Christmas holidays were never really something I got to enjoy throughout my young adulthood as I worked in the hospitality industry between 17 and 22. As a result, I would often work the crappy Christmas Eve or New Year’s shifts.
In my naivety, I thought an office job would bring with it excellent festive holidays and epic Christmas parties. The former was virtually non-existent except for bank holidays. The latter was usually an underwhelming episode of “fruit is a vegan pudding, right?” followed by the spectacle of seeing senior management eat dinner with both their wives and mistresses at the same table.
Then I became self-employed, woohoo! I could technically take time off whenever I wanted. Except there was no one to cover for me, I wouldn’t get paid for the hours I didn’t work and there would be double the work waiting for me when I got back… so I fell into the habit of ‘keeping an eye’ on emails when I was away, and even answering the odd one if it felt urgent enough.
These habits aren’t unique to self-employment, either. In my last senior office role, there was a similar attitude in the office around being able to contact people, even when they were on holiday or off sick. Even on sick days, I would work from home - I can only think of a single sick day in the three years that I didn’t work.
It’s no wonder that over half of workers are experiencing burnout in 2021, and 80% believe Covid-19 has affected workplace burnout, meaning the situation is a lot darker than my last foray into employment (which was pretty dark).
There is much work to be done within the workplace to tackle burnout, but one thing we can all take control of today is how we spend our time off. If you have the power to decide when you take time off, then plan ahead and look to arrange a holiday before burnout kicks in. We recently decided to take the first day of each month off, as that’s typically the quietest day for us. I can’t say we’ve always managed to follow through, but having that in mind has helped with taking regular days off as opposed to waiting until I’m too tired to get out of bed.
(Note from Craig: it’s currently the 1st December and I’ve got too many deadlines, so I’m working purposely to try and ensure I can take the Christmas period off without worrying… which sort of proves Ellen’s point about freelancing, deadlines and trying to make space for a break).
Back to the subject of the festive break. If you are employed, you may be restricted by how much time you can take off. And even if you run your own business, you may have existing client commitments you must adhere to. However, if you work in an industry like mine then it’s worth reminding yourself that the world won’t end if you don’t log in for a week.
Copywriting is important work, but it’s not critical. We all get deep into the work and, because it’s important to us, it must be that vital to everyone. It’s not. As long as your clients are aware that you will be off between certain dates, and you deliver any promised work ahead of time or negotiate extended deadlines, you are fine to step away from the keyboard.
In our capacity as web designers, we also host websites - which can be a little trickier to take time off from, because our clients may rely on their site to sell products or services. I’ve learned through trial and error to put an emergency protocol in place should a client’s website go down. If you manage client social media accounts, you may be in a similar situation where you feel like you can never switch off ‘just in case’.
So, here’s a summary of my tips for taking the best Christmas and New Year break this year:
Contact retainer clients ahead of time and let them know when you will last be available, so they can get any requests in before then.
Draft an out-of-office that clearly states when you are back to work. If you may be required in an emergency (client website goes down or their social media is hacked) give them your mobile number - make it clear this is for emergencies only. You can even give an example of what you consider urgent if you believe people may push boundaries.
Remove your work email and social accounts from your personal phone
Avoid logging into your dedicated work computer if you have one - even just to watch Netflix. The temptation is strong to just check something.
And, most importantly, enjoy every second of your time off. Lie in past your usual alarm, have an extra mince pie, go to the pub on what would usually be a school night… however you wind down, give yourself the gift of rest this Christmas.
How long are you taking off this festive period? And how do you tell clients that you won’t be available? Let me know your processes over on Twitter @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a chat.
Abercrombie is the self-proclaimed Lord of Grimdark fantasy - if you’re still sitting around waiting for GRRM to publish Winds of Winter then it’s time to dip into his work.
Found myself home alone on Saturday night so chose this light-hearted romp and I wasn’t disappointed. I know it was widely publicised upon release but I don’t think I realised it was so well-received until I saw the reviews. A fun flick for all the fam (or just you if you’re a loner like me).
Hilarious and informative conversation between two comedy legends. Novak does an incredible impression of Buxton’s school friend Louis Theroux. He also discusses how Fonejacker and Facejacker have aged since the industry’s move away from offensive and racialised humour. Worth a listen if you’re a Buckles fan.
That’s all from me this week! Hope you are all enjoying the first chocolate of your advent calendars this morning. See you next week for more chatter about mental health and work culture in the online world.
Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:
24 November: Who are you?
17 November: Christmas comes early
10 November: Does size matter?
5 November: Consistency is overrated
27 October: Winter is coming whether you like it or not
20 October: I got sick
13 October: This girl is me
6 October: Everything is awful… or is it?
29 September: That’s dope
22 September: Have a word with yourself
15 September: Running changed my life
8 September: Okay, boomer