Should you pack your mentor in your suitcase?

As the summer holiday season starts we consider whether the mentor and mentee should continue their mentoring sessions whilst the mentee is on holiday, or if they should take a break.

A summer holiday is an opportunity to relax and do different things to the norm; spend time and reconnect with family and friends; and recharge, ready to return to work/study and to day-to-day life.  69% of British people go on holiday to take a break to rest and relax.

However, research undertaken by OnePoll for the Hilton hotel group found that 47% of holidaymakers took two or more days to truly relax and unwind on holiday.  This of course makes sense when we consider that the actual travelling can be stressful and it can take a little time to adjust to new surroundings.  Of more concern is that 39% of holidaymakers say they continue to be distracted by everyday life whilst they are on holiday, with 30% distracted by work they’ve left behind and 29% worrying about the work they will return to.

So if someone is unable to switch off on holiday and is continuing to worry about work on holiday, is it better for them to speak to their mentor whilst they are on holiday or can they force themselves to not worry about work?

Art Markman PhD is an expert in psychology, the workplace and cognitive science.  In a paper for the Harvard Business Review, Markman sets out the importance of people having a break from work and also sets out the steps someone should take if they are struggling to switch off from work during their down-time:

  1. Focus on what you will do instead – enjoying time with the family, reading a good book or even paragliding. The emphasis is to focus on positive actions rather than the negative action of “I’m not going to work”
  2. Change your environment to change your behaviour – of course going on holiday creates this change – but not if you are constantly checking your emails, so change this behaviour too and enlist the support of those around you, by managing the expectations of work colleagues and clients ahead of the holiday
  3. Watch disaster not strike – wean yourself off work by not answering your emails or calls and watch how those around you deal with their queries themselves

In the same way that we plan the holiday, our itinerary and what we will pack, we should also plan our approach to not working and not worrying about work on holiday.  In the run-up to a holiday, the mentor and mentee should discuss the mentee’s view of their holiday and if they have any concerns about switching off from work they should consider Markman’s strategies.  The mentor should encourage the mentee to develop a plan of action to ensure that the mentee can relax and enjoy their holiday.

There may be occasions where the mentor and mentee agree that it is appropriate to have a mentoring session whilst the mentee is on holiday.  This may be because of a time-sensitive and major piece of work/project the mentee will need to undertake as soon as they are back from their holiday; or to ensure that the mentee comes back from their holiday fully motivated and engaged, ensuring that the holiday does not affect the momentum of their development.

Tourism expert Jeroen Nawijn of NHTV Breta University of Applied Sciences identified a ‘holiday happiness curve’: people in the first 10% of their holiday were generally in lower mood, the ‘travel phase’; those between 10% and 80% into the trip, the ‘core phase’, were in high mood; those at the period between 80% and 90% of the trip were in lower mood, the ‘decline phase’; and finally, those in the final 10% of the holiday were once again in a higher mood, the ‘rejuvenation phase’. Nawijn believes this last phase is where people have left behind the frustration of the holiday coming to an end and are look forward to coming home.  This last phase may be the best time for the mentor and mentee to have a mentoring phone/video call, ensuring that the mentee returns from their holiday ready and firing on all cylinders.

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