As the summer comes to a close, many people are preparing to take one final vacation before work gets busier, school begins, and the leaves start falling. Most people would agree that taking a break from work every now and then is beneficial. Vacations often allow employees to relax, spend time with their families/friends, and come back to work refreshed and more productive.
Despite these benefits, however, many employees shy away from taking vacation time or truly letting themselves leave work behind for a set period. In the always-connected world in which we live, it is definitely hard to completely shut yourself off from work, yet it is possible, if you make a conscious effort to do so. However, many people do not make this effort, and I can think of two common reasons why: Guilt and Image.
I feel guilty…
Sometimes, individuals experience feelings of guilt when they take time off. Whether they are worrying tasks at work won’t get done, someone will need them in the interim, or they are taking “too much time away,” these feelings of guilt can affect their willingness to disconnect completely. Often, this is why people continue to check their email and voicemail while out of the office. Remember, however, there was a time before the internet and smart phones, when people truly were unreachable if not in the same place, and the business world survived just fine. Don’t feel guilty because you are taking a break from work; think about how much more rested, dedicated, and ready to put forth your best work you will be when you come back. If you let go and stop thinking about your job for awhile, you never know what ideas and insight will pop into your head. After all, it’s been said that many people think of their best ideas when they take a step back and do something else. You work hard the majority of the year, and you deserve a little time off. You earned those vacation days!
As a manager, you should let employees know that, despite how valuable they are to your organization, the business will survive without them for a short period of time. Doing so may lessen the feelings of guilt many employees face when requesting time off. Encourage your employees to avoid checking email and voicemail while on vacation. Make vacations a normal part of each employee’s job. You could even go so far as requiring employees to use a certain amount of vacation time each quarter, such as by giving employees a free “mental health day” which they must use. Additionally, you should lead by example, and use your vacation time to disconnect from work as well. After all, everyone, including you, needs a break at times.
But taking vacation time could make me seem like a less engaged or dedicated employee…
Often, individuals think that when they go on vacation, their managers and coworkers will view them as less engaged and not as dedicated to their work. After all, if a person truly loved his or her job, he or she wouldn’t take time off, right? How very wrong this thinking is. Personally, I know there are things I absolutely love to do, yet even if I had the option, I would not spend all of my time participating in these activities. Life requires a balance. Regardless of how much an employee loves his/her job, there are other interests the person has which should be given priority as well. Striking a balance is key to engagement and happiness.
The idea that taking time off makes one look less dedicated finds its foundation in the commonly held (and outdated!) belief that those individuals who are more present and visible in the office are harder workers. Managers and employees alike must move beyond this thought process, especially given that in this day and age, many people have the option to work from anywhere, depending on their job functions. Just because a person works longer hours or is in the office more often than another person does not necessarily indicate he or she is getting more done or is more dedicated to work. Everyone has different styles of working and various paces at which they complete tasks. As long as the work gets done, that’s really all that matters. Thus, if tasks are finished on time and in good quality, there is nothing to indicate that an employee is less engaged because he or she is on vacation or not in the office.
Now that we’ve addressed two roadblocks people encounter when thinking about taking a vacation, let’s examine some tips for ensuring work runs smoothly while the employee is out of the office.
Tips for vacationing employees and their managers:
- Establish an out-of-office plan so other team members know which of the employee’s tasks fall to them when that person is on vacation.
- Set email guidelines. Often, when employees return from being gone for longer periods of time, their inboxes are overflowing with emails. Other employees and managers should make a committed attempt to think about which emails the vacationing employee should be copied on, which are urgent, and which emails can wait to be sent until the employee returns.
- Communicate. If employees are proactive by letting their colleagues know when they will be out of the office, and give coworkers plenty of time to request certain things before they leave, it will make the transition easier.
- Remember to turn on an out-of-office response for emails and voicemails, indicating who people should contact if they need immediate assistance.
Everyone deserves a break, especially with the amount of work most people put in throughout the year. So squash those feelings of guilt, pack that bag, turn off your phone, and go enjoy your vacation while this weather lasts. You will be a more dedicated, reinvigorated, and engaged employee for it.