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So did you have a good holiday? Did you fully detach from work and relax? Or was your vacation really a workcation?

Apparently more than half of us regularly check emails while on holiday. Views differ as to whether this is appropriate. Is it reasonable for employers to expect staff to check in regularly and deal with issues that arise? Should employees have a right to an undisturbed break if they wish? Or are we all so well connected now that this is no longer reasonable or practical?

I remember years ago, before my first Blackberry, that preparing to go on holiday was actually quite stressful. I would have inevitability amassed a pile of less urgent papers on my desk. I felt obliged to clear it – to make sure that everything was dealt with or (later in my career) delegated. I’d make lengthy holiday notes detailing where any particular matter or ongoing deal was up to. I’d leave work worrying that I’d forgotten something or that clients might feel neglected. Certainly, my family would be unimpressed if I called the office frequently – and had then been distant and distracted while worrying about what I wasn’t able to deal with personally.

In hindsight, I needn’t have been concerned. My perfectly capable colleagues got on with resolving any issues in my absence. If they couldn’t, for whatever reason, things could usually wait until I returned. If they couldn’t wait, then I could be reached on the number which I’d have given my secretary. Once I realised that the world still turned without me, I relaxed and returned refreshed – even if I did have an accumulation of calls to return and letters to which to reply.

But the world has indeed turned. Mobile devices ensure that we are never out of touch. We all look at our phones frighteningly frequently. They’ve become an extension of us. So how can we ever really get away?

Actually, I think many of us in the property industry would prefer to check in every so often while away. Personally, I prefer to stay connected rather than have to deal with hundreds of emails when I get back.

I think it’s important for employers and employees to agree on what’s expected – and then not to expect more. That said, if we want to stay in touch with the office or our clients, then I think we should be able to do so – the important thing is that it should be the individual’s choice. It should be reasonable for our colleagues to have a work free break if they wish. But equally, in my view, it’s not unreasonable for those who are client facing to be asked to leave contact details in the event of any issues if possible. Contact is not always possible of course. You may be trekking in the Himalayas or sailing the Aegean and out of Internet reach.

Automated out of office messages are useful. But how many of us switch the out of office on and then reply to emails personally? Sensible email management is key. There’s no need to reply to everything – that’s what the auto reply is for. Maybe look at your inbox at the same time each day for a short while. Make sure your family or friends accept that that’s your plan. If you start an email dialogue though, be prepared to see it through. You might regret having done so. It may be appropriate to forward emails to colleagues who are not on holiday.  They can then personalise a reply and perhaps deal with matters sooner in your absence. It’s less easy to do that once you’ve engaged in conversation.

If you’re in a transactional role and enjoy what you do, you’ll probably find it hard to let go of ongoing negotiations. For me, it’s more stressful not to stay in touch. I love that side of my work and, as long as I can keep kicking things along, I’ll relax. My family has accepted that within reason and I’m now aware of the line that I shouldn’t cross.

The pressures to succeed, close that deal, impress your boss or partners or just be visible need to be put in perspective.  Work and life are increasingly merging and can be a difficult balance to achieve. Ultimately, it should be a matter of choice for the individual. But be careful. Your next holiday with family or friends may be over before you realise that you’ve spent your eagerly anticipated time away back on planet work.

Notes to editor

Gary joined Allsop in 1987 and was invited to join the Partnership in 1991. Since then, he has been head of the Residential Auction Department with Chris Berriman. The department is now the largest residential auction house in the UK and sells up to 2000 lots each year to a value of around £400 million.

Gary is vice chair of the RICS Auctioneering Group, a member of the RICS Auction Legal Review Group and a former member of the RICS Estate Agency Group. He is past chair of the RICS Agency Skills Panel and past chair of the ISVA Auctioneering committee.

Gary is also a director of Allsop Ireland, a joint auction venture with Space Property Consultancy in Dublin, Ireland. He was the first auctioneer to conduct multi lot auctions in the Republic.

Gary is the author of many articles in regular trade press, a frequent speaker at professional conferences and a regular charity auctioneer.


If you would like to get in touch with Gary, please contact him: or +44 (0)20 7344 2619