Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

4 Reasons Why Your Boss Should Take A Vacation

Business man happy to be on the beach

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.

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  1. On July 6th, 2011 at 4:19 PM Wally Bock said:

    What a great post about important points, Tanveer. I chose it as one of the top five of the week.

  2. On July 11th, 2011 at 8:08 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Wally! I'm delighted to hear that and as always, I'm grateful for the inclusion.

  3. On July 6th, 2011 at 5:32 PM Ben Brown said:

    Adding to this list, a boss should take a vacation to allow his subordinates to have a vacation at work itself! 🙂

  4. On July 11th, 2011 at 8:14 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Good point, Ben. Having the boss away from work for a period of time does change things up in terms of interactions and such, which is probably another reason why some bosses prefer to stay on the clock. However, it's important that your employees know that they are trusted. And what better way is there to demonstrate that than to leave them in charge while the boss is away.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  5. On July 7th, 2011 at 4:07 AM Sindoora said:

    Really loved the post!
    We very often tend to overlook the importance of a 'break'. I think all the points you make here are very relevant. Especially #3 where you mention that it is essential to trust that your team can function without you.

    When bosses take vacation time, it tends to breed a lot of resentment. But the points you've made here are sure to be convincing. Every boss should sit his team down and put these points forward.

  6. On July 11th, 2011 at 8:18 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Sindoora. The situation you describe is a great reminder of how what leaders perceive and what those they lead perceive is not necessarily the same. By demonstrating to your employees that your vacation time is meant to benefit your employees as well as yourself, paired with the expectation that employees will be taking such time off for themselves, will help diminish any concerns about resentment in the ranks because it becomes clear that you're still aware of the challenges they'll face while you're away.

    Thanks again, Sindoora for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  7. On July 8th, 2011 at 12:18 AM menbuildingbridges said:

    Excellent Observations! You should add the standard disclaimers about the possible fate of messengers.

  8. On July 11th, 2011 at 8:19 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks; glad you enjoyed this piece.

  9. On July 8th, 2011 at 8:29 AM DAN said:

    I have worked for 19 years without a vacation, and have worked 7 days a week; I see what happens to people in my profession who take time off, they get sued, don't succeed, etc etc. You can take time off in some areas of work, in others not.

  10. On July 11th, 2011 at 8:25 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    I have to disagree with you, Dan. I used to work in a clinical setting treating patients and when our clinic starting taking on more patients, it became pretty common for many of us to work 11 days in a row (working straight through the weekend) before we got one day off and then started all over again. I can tell you from personal experience that by the 10th day, you could feel the negative impact it was having. Fortunately, I had a few nice people on the team who were willing to swap roles with me so they could handle the more important tasks while I dealt with the more menial ones.

    It doesn't matter what field you work in, the human body and mind can only do so much before it starts to malfunction and make mistakes. Even machinery is given dedicated times for repair and maintenance. It's absurd to think humans don't require the same kind of treatment.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  11. On July 8th, 2011 at 1:34 PM Christina Ernst said:

    Tanveer makes a few great points. As a travel consultant and business owner I handle 1,000s of vacations a year with quite a few CEO's at the top of my list. Usually I hear lots of excuses for why they are wanting to take their vacation before we actually look into the vacation itself. I do the same and take dozens of trips a year -and still working while I’m staring at penguins in New Zealand or relaxing under a palm tree in the Caribbean! I recommend to find the right agent/consultant to bring the vacation to you, just as if you were shopping for a new home. They should send you lots of suggestions after finding out your personal interests.

    For example – I have CEOs that have to make sure they are in touch 24 hours a day and work while on their vacation – while others want to run far away, do something exotic but still yet be able to come back on a moment's notice. The most important point Tanveer makes is what a vacation does to YOU – recharge and the ability to come back to the office more focused. Don't stress yourself out or stress your secretary out – find a good travel consultant to take care of it for you and someone to contact if you need to hop on the next flight home.

  12. On July 11th, 2011 at 8:53 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Those are some great points, Christina. I absolutely agree with you that it's important that time be made to properly plan your vacation in terms of what you want to accomplish in taking that time away from work. Thanks for sharing your experience/insights in this discussion.

  13. On July 8th, 2011 at 8:03 PM Eileen Burick said:

    Agreed! We all need to take time and get away from the office to get a revitalized and fresh perspective on our lives, our families and our sanity / inner peace!

  14. On July 11th, 2011 at 8:55 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Absolutely; I'm always amazed at how before I go on vacation, I'm reluctant about leaving work, fretting over how much the To-do and inbox will overflow in my absence. And yet, every time when I return from vacation, I feel stronger and revitalized and perfectly capable of handling all those tasks now awaiting my attention.

    Thanks Eileen for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  15. On July 9th, 2011 at 9:02 PM Helen Antholis said:

    Wonderful post, Tanveer. I would add that some people don't take time off for vacation because they fear that the organization will find out that it can do just fine without them (how sad is that?)

    I totally agree about taking vacation time to re-energize oneself. For 5 years in one organization, I rarely took a lunch break. That contributed to burnout. Besides that needed vacation, I would encourage others to take a break for lunch. It refreshes you daily so that when you DO go on vacation, it doesn't take a week to wind down.

  16. On July 11th, 2011 at 9:17 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Helen; I appreciate that. That's a good point you bring up about how some people fear taking a vacation out of fear that it will show that they're disposable. But this is why I think it's important for leaders to communicate to their employees how taking a vacation is not about assessing where the fat is; rather, it's about ensuring that everyone is operating at their peak performance by giving their minds and body a much-needed rest to rejuvenate and restore.

    As I mentioned in response to another commentator, none of us question the need to perform regular maintenance on machinery and even computers to make sure they are running at their best. It's about time we shift our Taylor-inspired conceptions about work efficiencies to recognizing that humans as well need such periodic downtime as well if we are to remain effective in our roles.

    Thanks again, Helen for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  17. On July 11th, 2011 at 5:50 AM Fiona Samuels said:

    After getting to a higher post people generally forget that they have a life outside work. I hope everyone remembers the childhood proverb which rightly says, ‘All work and no play, makes jack a dull boy.’ No matter how much you are busy in your work, you should always seek time for your family. Also if you are single, a small vacation keeps you away from the official environment and it is a good way of relaxation.

  18. On July 11th, 2011 at 9:24 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Ah, yes. I remember that saying. As with most things in life, we need to recognize the importance of finding a balance in our approach to work. One of the responsibilities leaders need to recognize is how they choose to address that balance plays a pivotal role in how others in the organization feel they should approach it in their own lives.

    Thanks Fiona for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  19. On July 11th, 2011 at 9:04 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Agreed, Sanji. It's amazing how energized and renewed focus you have after taking time off work. Without question, there's more benefits than disadvantages to taking time off work and going on a vacation. Hope you have a wonderful vacation, Sanji and thanks for your comment.

  20. On July 12th, 2011 at 9:36 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Solid post. Interesting thread of conversation. Dan, candidly you might want to re-evaluate your position. I am a self-bosser now for 17 years. Yes, hard to take time off, but I have managed. My business is a 365 day horse race. Taking a few days here or there and I have learned the race goes on. I have also learned to be a global creative, thus live overseas. The change of scenery helps me clear my head.

    One last thought. Bosses take vacations. Leaders take holidays.

  21. On July 13th, 2011 at 4:53 AM Roro said:

    This is a very insightful post, Tanveer. I so agree that vacations can do wonders' for the body and mind. One of the biggest benefits of taking a vacation is it allows for growth outside the confines of the workplace. Most of us are not aware that we are suffering from stress already because it is something we have learned to work with. Vacation from the redundancy of your job encourages the input of fresh new ideas and promotes a healthy outlook. It also gives the impression to your subordinates that you have a lighter side to your personality and may encourage healthier working relationships. It's important to always look at the big picture and taking quality time off from work can clear your mind and perhaps allow you to be a more effective and efficient head of an organization.

  22. On July 15th, 2011 at 11:27 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Roro; glad you enjoyed this piece. There’s no question that taking such time off from work – both in the form of daily breaks away from the workplace and prolonged ones in the form of a vacation – helps us to gain a fresh perspective on things by allowing our body and mind time to recuperate and focus on other tasks that provide a more balanced sense of living.

    Thanks again, Roro, for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  23. On July 16th, 2011 at 3:11 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Glad to hear it, Paul. And trust me, I'm like you in not being crazy about having to deal with the build-up that inevitably occurs while you're away. However, I can tell you that taking time off from work really re-energizes your mind and as such, tackling this overgrown pile on your desk is not as daunting as it would be if you stayed on the job. Besides, what I've found is that these build-ups serve as the perfect opportunity to improve how you approach work because it forces you to recognize what's urgent and important and what's just urgent and making a lot of noise to get attention.

    In that way, you do end becoming more productive than you were before you went on vacation. In any case, glad to hear this piece got you convinced to make time for yourself, Paul.

  24. On July 19th, 2011 at 10:31 AM Jeff said:

    I feel bad for leaders who takes a break and often receives comments that they are relaxing too much. Taking a break has a huge positive effect on our productivity. No matter how busy, once week I have a day off. I'll just relax and not think of work at all. I'll feel more recharge and ready afterwards.

  25. On August 7th, 2011 at 7:41 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Agreed, Jeff. There's more and more studies coming out that are reinforcing the message that we can't expect to run at full steam all the time. In fact, I'm currently reading about one study that's found that even working under medium to low urgent time deadlines leads to more creativity than working under the gun of a tight deadline. More proof that we need to reassess our perceptions and assumptions about the necessity and value of taking these breaks, both in our days as well as for taking a vacation from work.

  26. On August 7th, 2011 at 7:33 PM Sabs said:

    My boss is FINALLY taking a vacation after way too long. He'll be away for a couple of weeks. I'm hoping #3 will ring true with him – I think we're more than capable of operating for a while without him.

  27. On August 7th, 2011 at 7:42 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    I think that if your boss comes back from his vacation and not only sees the place operating well, but having work progressing will help illustrate that leaving his employees alone to do their jobs not only helps to demonstrate his trust in their abilities, but it also frees him up to focus on other aspects of the organization.

  28. On August 26th, 2011 at 4:00 AM Loc said:

    I totally agree with #1. I find when my boss comes back from his vacation he seem more relax, he’s open to comments and suggestions and the work atmosphere seem so much more relax. This does not mean we don’t do any work, which we do.

  29. On August 26th, 2011 at 11:35 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Absolutely, and that more open and relaxed approach is true for employees who return from vacation as well. Let's face it, none of us doubt how much regular car maintenance on our cars helps to keep it running effectively and reliably. It's time that we start recognizing that if we want people to be as effective as machinery, they also will require periodic breaks for maintenance and repair.

    Thanks Loc for sharing your experience of what it's like when your boss returns from vacation.

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