A few days ago, my wife and I decided to take the kids to the beach, to take advantage of the beautiful summer weather that’s been absent in previous years. Admittedly, I did question whether I should bring along my laptop to use some of that lounging-around time to do some writing and such. It only took a moment’s consideration, though, for me to dispel the idea, preferring instead to use this time to watch my kids build sandcastles, or simply floating in the water while my mind drifted off. After all, spending time in such carefree pursuits is what we often associate with taking time off work to enjoy our lives.
Unfortunately, many people are either feeling guilty about taking time off work to go on vacation or worse still, forgoing it altogether in favour of staying ‘on the job’ in order to try and diminish the number of issues currently found on their plates. Many leaders have been very public about their decision to skip taking a vacation this year, rationalizing that it would be unwise to be away from the office given the problems arising from today’s economic climate.
And yet, the reality is that the only unwise thing about these situations is thinking that you’re helping your team by not taking time off from work, a decision that can prove to be more harmful than beneficial for you or your organization. To help prove my point, here are four reasons why you should be going on vacation this summer.
1. Revive your productivity and with it, your team’s
There’s been a lot written lately about the connection between taking regular breaks in your day and your level of productivity. While these daily breaks can keep us going over the short term, it’s vital that we take longer breaks from work to sustain and even build our creativity and productivity. Being away from your work environment for a longer period of time will help you gain a fresh perspective about your work, as well as providing you with the opportunity to pursue your other interests.
It’s also important to remember that people in your team are depending on you to do your job well. So allowing yourself to get worn out at work will not only affect your overall job performance, but also the ability of your team mates to effectively do theirs as well. As such, skipping over your vacation will not only have an impact on your productivity, it can also create frustrations within the team, which can have a deleterious effect on the organization’s morale.
2. Vacation time is part of your remuneration; it’s not a job perk
If you think back to when you interviewed for this job, you’ll probably remember not only reviewing the salary and fringe benefits that came with it, but also how much vacation time you’d get. Naturally, this is one of the most important considerations when taking on a new job as we want to make sure that we’d have time to pursue our other interests outside of work.
This is what makes it all the more ironic that the first thing we willingly forsake at work is taking that time we’re given to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Part of the problem is that we’ve shifted our perception of vacation time to be something that is given to us as a job perk. The reality is that vacation time is a part of our remuneration; a return on the investment of our time and expertise in helping our organization to reach their objectives.
Think of it this way – how many of us would refuse an end-of-year bonus or salary increase out of concern that taking it might reflect poorly on us? Obviously, none of us would do this because we understand that such offers represent a return on the hard work and contributions we’ve offered to the company. It’s time we get back to making that connection with our vacation time as well.
3. Serve as a role model for others in your team
As I mentioned above, many leaders have been very public about their intentions to skip taking any vacation this year, in order to help their organization address the problems they’re currently facing. On the surface, this might seem like a welcome gesture; that a company’s leadership doesn’t want to leave their employees holding the bag while they go off to enjoy themselves. Ironically, such a move is more damaging to the team’s morale and productivity than being of any help, symbolically or otherwise.
As a leader, it’s important to remember that your employees will look to you for guidance of what will be allowed and what will be frowned upon. By not taking any time off work, your employees will feel pressured to also forgo their vacation time as well. Or if they do go on vacation, it will be with much concern over how they will be perceived by the organization’s leadership. Remember that taking care of your employees also means taking care of yourself as their leader.
Of course, this is not only an issue for leaders to take note of, as even employees can serve as a guide for others in their team in showing that – despite the workload that might be building on your desk – it’s still critical for you to take time off work in order to maintain your effectiveness in your role.
4. Show your team they can manage without you
It’s easy for many leaders, as well as employees, to feel like they are indispensable to their team or organization; that being away for any given period of time would introduce the risk of others not knowing how to manage things in your absence. While this might make us feel good about our contributions, this is far from a healthy situation for your organization, both in terms of your company’s growth and overall morale. Taking time off from work will encourage your team members and yourself to develop strategies and abilities that will help them to learn how to effectively hold down the fort while you’re away.
Although this is something that we’d normally associate with those in leadership positions, the reality is we’ve all experienced times where others in our team come asking for our help and support. By providing them with opportunities where they have to manage for themselves, you can help your team mates develop the skills and assurance to know they can manage just fine – even if only for a short time – without your direct support or assistance.
In today’s economic climate, it’s easy for us to fall into the belief that we need to sacrifice our free time for the sake of the greater good or worse, succumb to the fear that taking a vacation will cast us in a negative light among our peers. The reality, though, is that we need our leaders and employees to bring their best efforts to reaching the organization’s objectives. The best way to ensure that is to encourage your team members to take time away from facing these issues so that they might bring a fresh perspective and new ideas on how to attain these shared goals.