The beginning of July often marks for many the official start of summer, with children being off from school for the summer break paired with the warmer weather and sunny skies that marks this time of the year. This is also typically the time of year where most of us would start making preparations to take advantage of the vacation time we’ve earned through the contributions and efforts we’ve made for our organization. Unfortunately, there’s a growing trend among both employees and leaders to forgo taking any breaks from work in order to deal with the growing demands filling their plates.
For many leaders, the idea of forgoing their vacation would appear to be ‘the right thing to do’ in order to show solidarity and understanding for the growing pressures/demands faced by those they lead. Indeed, the apparent rise in criticism being directed towards leaders – both in the public and private sectors – who do elect to take some time off work would appear to reinforce the thinking that it’s better to stay on the job and to keep pressing ahead until better times return once again.
While this might make all parties feel better through reinforcing the notion that we’re all in this together, the reality is that such decisions are actually more harmful than beneficial for your organization and your employees. If you’re thinking of skipping out on taking time off from work this summer, here are four reasons why should reconsider this in terms of how this decision might impact your team and their future effectiveness.
1. Taking time off work recharges your productivity and ability to perceive new directions
In an earlier piece, I discussed the connection found between taking regular breaks during the 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 on our ability to remain agile and productive.
Vacation time also allows us to pursue other interests, an initiative many innovative companies encourage their employees to do during the work week in order to see what new solutions or ideas they might come up with that can be pooled into the organization’s directive. Being away from your work environment for a longer period of time will allow you to gain a fresh perspective on the vision you have for your organization and of new ways that you can help your team to transform it into reality.
2. Serve as an example of the importance and value of taking time off work
When it comes to good leadership practices, a common axiom that is shared is to “lead by example” – that you encourage the behaviours and commitments you’d like to see in your employees by exhibiting it first in your own actions.
Ironically, by choosing to forgo taking your vacation, leaders are not so much showing support for their employees as they are demonstrating to them how little you value or consider it necessary for your employees to take time off work. Indeed, employees who do opt to go on vacation can feel ostracized by others in the team, considering how everyone else from the leadership on down, have decided that current conditions require everyone to sacrifice what they’ve earned through their contributions to the shared effort.
That’s why leaders should not only take their vacation, but make a point of advising their employees that they expect each of them to do the same as well.
3. Show your team you trust their ability to manage without you
One common assumption all of us like to make is that we’re indispensable to our 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 our 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. By taking time off from work, leaders will provide their team members with the opportunity to develop their skills to effectively manage the fort while you’re away.
Through such opportunities, leaders can foster within their employees a sense of confidence and assurance that they can manage things just fine – even if only for a short time – without your direct support or assistance.
4. Reminds employees that vacation time is part of their remuneration; it’s not a job perk
In today’s economy, many organizations can’t afford to hand out too many raises, while at the same time being worried that in not offering such rewards, they’re at risk of losing key players in their organization. By reminding your team that their vacation time is a part of their remuneration – and more importantly, allowing them to actually take this time off work – leaders can demonstrate to their employees that they understand the importance and necessity of being able to have this downtime to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Let me put it another 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 provided to the organization. This is why leaders need to reinforce both the value of vacation time and encouraging employees to take advantage of taking these breaks by showing their team that they value and use it as well.
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 full efforts to the process of attaining the organization’s goals. The best way to ensure that is to encourage everyone in your organization to take advantage of their vacation break to remove themselves from facing the challenges currently on their plate, thereby allowing them to bring a fresh perspective and with it new ideas on how to attain these shared goals.
So this summer, don’t throw away your chance to leave the office behind to spend some time with your family and pursuing your other interests. Trust me when I say your employees will be thankful that you did.