Here’s How 6 Leaders Unplug and Disconnect – And How They Encourage Their Teams To Do The Same

BANNER IMAGE - Leaders on taking a break
Employee mental health and wellbeing has been on the minds of many leaders as the pandemic stretches on. The 24/7 mentality of many employees may not always lead to greater output and more productivity. Research has shown time and time again that taking breaks – both long and short – can help reduce stress, boost productivity, and improve multiple mental health indicators. Below, hear from six leaders about the importance of taking time to relax and disconnect – and how they encourage their teams to do the same.
August 18, 2021

Employee mental health wellbeing has been on the minds of many leaders as the pandemic stretches on. Workers looking to perform their best in the workplace may stay later, take on extra projects, and rarely step away from their workspace. But working longer may not always mean working smarter. In fact, multiple studies have found that taking breaks can reduce or prevent stress, help boost your performance at work, and reduce the need for longer recoveries.

This year, we have asked leaders from diverse fields across our global organisations about their perspectives on taking breaks and disconnecting as part of our wellbeing series. Below, hear from six leaders about the importance of taking time to relax – and how they encourage their teams to do the same.

Why is taking a break so important, and what do you do to relax and disconnect from work?

Corinne Ripoche, Regional President Adecco Group Americas

“It is important to disconnect to take some time to be present and mindful. Finding the right balance is essential to finding enjoyment in your work. It helps keep us steady through the waves and keeps you in an acceptable range of stress. If we do not stay centred with our two feet on the ground, this has an impact on you, on your mind, on your body and on your team.”

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“I have been practicing meditation for the past 10 years. I take 20 minutes at the beginning of every day and my level of stress has gone down. It has been life changing. It brings a sense of calm and keeps me focused. I use an app called Petit Bambou for guided meditation. As well as meditation I enjoy running or taking long walks to relax. I also enjoy cooking organic vegetables and sharing it with friends alongside a nice glass of red wine!”

Preeti Bajaj, SVP Modis & Country Head of Australia, New Zealand

“Taking time away from work is really needed in order to have a happy, healthy career. It provides mental clarity, enhances creativity and innovative thinking. From a personal point of view, being able to switch off, be in different environments and on different time schedules gives your body and brain a much deserved break. Sometimes even the shortest break can provided a great circuit breaker to help your wellbeing.”

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“I have a variety of tools I use regularly to help me disconnect. I use daily exercise as my wellbeing maintenance and am an avid runner. I am committed to training 3 times a week and lately have been enjoying a mix of boxing and running. I also use vedic chants while running, I find they help my internal wellbeing. I also enjoy listening to podcasts and reading. But for holidays it is wonderful to travel (if we can) and also to see and spend time with family and friends and reconnect with the people around you.”

Cynthia Hansen, Managing Director, The Adecco Group Foundation

“I see disconnecting like opening a window and letting in fresh air. If you always keep the window closed, your thinking becomes stale and stuffy. You need time off to disconnect, whether for a moment or an extended period to refresh, re-oxygenate, and let in new ideas, thoughts and feelings.”

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“In my time off, I love to be outside, particularly hiking, cycling or traveling. Often this is with my family or friends, but also being able to do it alone is important. The combination of physical activity and mental reflection is what I need in order to relax, to calm the mind and to feel refreshed. This summer I will be visiting my parents in the US, whom I have not seen in over 2 years. As an ex-pat in Europe, staying connected to far-away family is also part of staying balanced and grounded.”

Karin Reiter, Global Head of ESG/Sustainability, The Adecco Group

“Taking a break helps me re-energize; it allows me to get some distance from the day to day, immerse myself in different experiences, let my mind wander, and gain a fresh perspective and new ideas that I might otherwise not see. It also allows me to spend dedicated, focused time with loved ones without the ongoing distraction of constant emails and worries about to do lists and open issues.”

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“I love going to the mountains, irrespective of the time of year. For me, few things beat the fresh air, clear skies and the expanse of the Swiss mountains coupled with good company for long conversations, good food.”

Reshma Ramachandran, Global Head of Transformation at the Adecco Group

“The best ideas come when we are not in action,” Ramachandran said in an interview. “The daily work with teams and customers are very action oriented and it is important that we take the time off, switch off from the here and now and not only recharge physically but also mentally.”

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“Disconnect” has a different definition for everyone. To me, it is simply getting out of the here and now. As human beings, we are very action oriented. And my definition of disconnect means simply getting out of the daily action. I do that on weekends as well, where I just lie in my garden on a good weather day and just read a book.”

Alberto Giovanni Busetto, Group Head, Data and Artificial Intelligence, the Adecco Group

“Time spent with family, friends and in the pursuit of a meaningful life is an excellent investment,” Busetto said. “In our job as data scientists, it is also a professional necessity because much of what we do relies on creative thinking. Creativity and innovation require a fresh mind to be impactful and sustainable.”

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And how does Alberto disconnect? “I love getting outside and enjoy the great outdoors. You see, I am passionate about AI and about our work in this field, so it is not always easy to fully disconnect – but, hey, wisdom is also an exercise in moderation, and being outside helps me enjoy nature and recharge my batteries.”

How do you encourage your team to take time off, as a leader?

Corinne Ripoche, Chief Executive Officer - Americas & Pontoon

How important is taking time off for a team? “They must do it!” Ripoche says. “I tell them that in order to help others breathe – you must put your oxygen mask on first! To be the best that you can be for yourself, your family, your friends and your colleagues, you must take care of yourself.”

Preeti Bajaj, the Adecco Group CEO for Australia and New Zealand

“As a leader it is important to recognise when your colleagues need a break. It has been harder during COVID for people to switch off and take the time they normally would and certainly travel plans for many have been put on hold. However, we have fantastic policies to encourage leave, we encourage communication and check in often with our people to ensure that they have the space in their workload to take the time off they need to recharge.”

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Cynthia Hansen, Managing Director of The Adecco Group Foundation

“I really encourage my team to switch off and to believe that nothing catastrophic will happen that cannot be managed. The key is that we support each other, have built the “bench depth” to provide coverage, and can manage what is truly urgent and what can wait.”

Karin Reiter, Global Head of ESG/Sustainability at The Adecco Group

“(Trying to) Lead by example, highlighting the importance of disconnecting, regularly checking in about their holiday plans and making sure this gets scheduled/blocked in the calendar early on and then planning around this – as well as having regular conversations about workloads, to ensure they disconnect not just during the holidays but also regularly in between.”

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Reshma Ramachandran, Global Head of Transformation at the Adecco Group

“Our teams do not hear us but see us. If we want our teams to do something, there is no point saying it if you do not follow up with action. I can only say that I try to set the example by my actions rather than words. So, this year when I was a week off, I am completely on a digital detox. Except for a single hiring email, I did not check or respond to any mails or calls. And hopefully this sets an example to my team as well to set their boundaries when they take the time off.”

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Alberto Giovanni Busetto, Group Head, Data and Artificial Intelligence, the Adecco Group

“Among other things, good management means organizing our work as a team in a way that makes it sustainable, enjoyable and conductive to the wellbeing of everyone. You can’t achieve that without enjoying some good vacation! As our team is built on mutual trust, it is easy for us to coordinate and manage our time well, keeping productivity and engagement high.”