OPINION: Time away can help kick-start your creativity

GERALDINE PEACOCK, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

I don't know about you, but travelling to work is my thinking time and two things in particular struck me last week, while pressed uncomfortably close to the person next to me on the Tube. Inevitably, I avoided eye contact by looking at the posters on the wall. They seemed full of messages beckoning me to escape to calm beauty spots such as the the Lake District, or exotic destinations such as the Seychelles. "Just what I need right now," I thought to myself.

Shifting to the other foot when the train stopped at King's Cross, my eye was drawn to another poster which was for the play Room with a View.

Knitting together my contemplations, as one does in the unpleasant travelling conditions so many of us endure, I started thinking about the importance of personal space.

There's no doubt that the voluntary sector has its fair share of workaholics.

I suppose to some degree it is inevitable, given the commitment that exists to our causes and, importantly, to the people we work to support. But we do need to remember to step away occasionally, whether it be to exotic destinations, or simply taking time out for reflection. Taking breaks from work is vital if we are to give it our best, and it can help our work in more direct ways.

Homily number one, I guess, is to make sure, as a responsible chief executive, that my staff take their holidays, but this is a far more difficult task than you might think. And they should be holidays which offer rest - real time to actually "detox" and relax. Relaxed staff are often at their most creative and I find that the best ideas come from people who have been away for a while.

My second homily concerns another concept of taking time out, which is now well established: awaydays. I'm not thinking so much of the activity-based team exercises, but rather a focus on the opportunity to provide clear space and a long-distance look at your organisation. It can provide the same perceptual shift as that which occurs when you leave a crowded beach, swim out to sea, turn and look back: same beach, very different picture.

Distance can give us real and beneficial insight and, just as in life as a whole, where a home/work balance is vital, a home and away balance is essential for good voluntary-sector working.

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