The importance of checking out

Amy Fallucca Centare Brookfield
Amy Fallucca Centare Brookfield

Earlier this year, I underwent surgery and was down for the count longer than expected. I barely looked at email the first two weeks I was home. I wasn’t in the office for a month. And guess what? An amazing thing happened. The world did not end. My company did not explode. Most importantly and not surprisingly, my team did an awesome job and really stepped up in my absence.

Most of us feel the need to be constantly connected to work; always in tune with what’s going on. As an organization that conducts multi-day in-room classroom training, I see this all the time. People step out of the room (despite planned breaks and the fact that their company is paying for them get the training) in order to take a phone call or respond to emails. It’s unfortunate they don’t get the full benefit of the training. I feel bad they’re missing out on the energized, refocused, and recharged feeling you get when you’re able to truly give your full attention to one thing at a time.

If any of this is sounding familiar, I challenge you to start taking steps TODAY to reach a more balanced place and “check out”… whatever that means for you. It could be taking some time off work, or setting better boundaries, more clear expectations of your availability, or establishing a “no-email” rule during dinner.

We are not robots. Having an “always on” mentality can negatively affect your health, your personal life, your loved ones, and your employer.

Health – If you are sacrificing your health to work more hours, it will inevitably catch up with you. Do you want to take care of yourself and be healthy now or do you want to deal with the repercussions (and expense) later?

Personal life – Are you living true to your purpose? Are you happy? When you’re not giving your personal life enough attention, all of these things sit in the back of your mind and cause a constant state of low-level stress.

Loved ones – Do you give your job more attention than your family? Do you bring your stress or anxiety about work home? This can cause you to be distant, aggravated or edgy. That’s probably not what you want, and it’s definitely not what they want.

Employer – If you’re unable to disconnect for even two days, your employer is relying too much on you. Don’t get caught up on why it has to be this way because the explanation doesn’t matter. It’s still bad for you and for your company.

Are you convinced? If so, just know that the steps needed to “check out” will be different for each person. Here a few ideas.

Share knowledge with co-workers. Involve them in matters they should know about. Information hoarding does not provide job security for anyone. It annoys co-workers and creates a sense of isolation.

Always maintain a list of what you’re working on, including general responsibilities and related tasks. This can also be a great tool to communicate progress with your boss. You might even realize that you’re doing a different job than what you were originally brought on to do.

When it makes sense, be sure to document processes. If you follow the same steps to do something, write it down or create a workflow diagram. This will help guide the person who covers for you when you’re away. It can also make your work more efficient and of higher quality.

Plan for “check out” time and communicate your plan. It’s important to talk with your manager about the need to “check out” and how you plan to do it in a way that won’t impact business.

Get support from co-workers and show your support for them as well. Chances are they would also like to go on vacation occasionally without being bombarded with issues from work. Identify a few people on your team who can be your back up, and do the same for them.

I really believe that with some preparation and planning, being able to “check out” is attainable for most professionals. Good luck!

Amy Fallucca is vice president of human resources and partner at Centare in Brookfield.

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