Nick Freer: Is disconnecting vital to recharge your batteries?

Last month, my wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary with a night away at the recently reopened Fife Arms hotel in Braemar. Owned by renowned Swiss art dealers and – based on the evidence of the array of sports cars with international licence plates parked out front – clearly attracting high net worth clientele from across Europe, it lived up to its billing as a luxurious stay in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
I would probably freak out if I turned my phone off for a whole week, says a holidaying Nick Freer. Picture: ContributedI would probably freak out if I turned my phone off for a whole week, says a holidaying Nick Freer. Picture: Contributed
I would probably freak out if I turned my phone off for a whole week, says a holidaying Nick Freer. Picture: Contributed

Word must have travelled that it was a special anniversary as we were upgraded to a suite on arrival, one from which you could see the river Clunie rushing past in all its glory; most definitely a room with a view. We were going to go back to the hotel in Mallorca where we got married but circumstances, such as leaving the kids at home in Scotland for the first time and the fact that we had already booked a family holiday on mainland Spain not long after, meant that a short weekend break better fit the bill.

Now sitting by the pool at our villa near Cadiz in southwestern Spain, we’ve had a nice break in the sunshine with relatives who are over from New Zealand and work hasn’t got too much in the way. I’ve kept true to my out of office message and only checked the inbox occasionally, done a couple of conference calls that were already in the diary and fielded a few calls about press stories and announcements in the workings.

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For me, this is about as much as I can switch off anyway. I would probably freak out if I turned my phone off for a week, so I’m okay with keeping an eye on things while making sure I get some time away from the inbox and seemingly never ending email trails. A bit like politics, a week is a long time in PR and, as the saying goes, time and tide wait for no man. Or something like that.

I message a friend from the business world, Geneva-based Scot Gib Bulloch, to ask him what he thinks about balancing vacations with time away from the office. “As the scope of corporate roles has grown even larger”, says Gib, “ and the ‘always online’, seven-days-a-week culture becomes the norm, it’s more important than ever to carve out the time to totally unplug while on holiday – to disconnect in order to reconnect to a deeper sense of who we are.”

I think Gib makes an important point here, namely around reconnecting with one’s self. Sometimes you need a change of scenery to get a bit of perspective and vacations, holidays or breaks – whatever you want to call them – can undoubtedly be good for the soul.

Gib is taking this concept a step further by creating what he calls a business “decelerator” on his native Isle of Bute. Craigberoch is a space for workshops, retreats and experiences to help inspire creativity and prevent burnout. The initiative was initially conceived by Gib during the process of promoting his seminal book, The Intrapreneur: Confessions of a Corporate Insurgent. You can hear him talk about his writings, Craigberoch and other interesting tales in person when he speaks at FutureX’s Future Business Forum in Edinburgh this September.

As I’m replying to Gib, a call comes in from a client chief executive who happens to be staying only an hour up the road in Seville. He is excited because his company is on the cusp of launching a new, retooled product and wanted me to be one of the first to know. It’s a fantastic company, with a brilliant and very likeable team and world-beating technology, so it’s great to shoot the breeze and hardly a hardship when I’m sitting poolside in beach shorts.

As we wrap up, I see there is a wee boy and slightly older girl in Barcelona tops who want to kick around the new football we bought in the local supermarket yesterday. A gentle reminder of the really important stuff in this life.

- Nick Freer is a founding director of the Freer Consultancy and Full Circle Partners.