There is a direct link between seriously respecting time off and long-term employee commitment and loyalty. When you honor an employee’s time away from work as a vital piece of that employee’s role in the business, you have a happy employee, and a happy employee is a more effective employee. It’s like exercise: Working out is important, but the rest time for your muscles between workouts is just as important for overall health and success. It is incredibly important for the health and happiness of the company to have balanced employees.
Sadly, most American workers only have two weeks of paid vacation, which is far behind most every civilized nation on the planet. That is coveted, precious time, and for those with families, you can’t ever replace that time. With time away from work being as valuable as it is, why is it then that people so often can’t seem to allow themselves to truly unplug and not take work with them on vacation?
People feel like they don’t have permission to unplug. They feel like there is something they’re going to miss, that they will be needed. They believe there is information that they have that no one else has, and many believe that it is important to maintain themselves as always accessible in the view of their company. Whether or not company policy (official or assumed) is to remain accessible, it is still okay for you to unplug and take a vacation. All you need is a vacation plan.
Planning for Your Absence
Don’t assume that just because you have been looking forward to your trip for weeks that anyone else remembers you are going to be gone. Often times, leaders forget that you have asked for vacation. They say, “Sure, okay. Put it on the calendar,” and they move on with their own tasks.
If you want to spend quality time away and really allow yourself to relax and unwind, you’ve got to start thinking about ways to prepare your staff or coworkers and set them up for success while you’re out. Whether you’re a leader or an employee, it’s all about expectation setting and having the right conversations. In other words, put a vacation plan in place!
Planning conversations need to happen, at a minimum, 60 days before your vacation. Be proactive and start planting some seeds so that you can truly unplug without worrying that others will need you to fill in the gaps in your absence. Talk about any “what if” scenarios you can think of and plan out solutions. If you have these conversations, even if you come from a work culture that tends to work on vacation, you will be less likely to get the calls and emails that keep you from truly unplugging. Be brave enough to ask whether enough of a backup plan has been put in place for you to unplug for that time.
Vacation Plan Step-By-Step
- Set up an automatic out-of-office email reply informing people when you will be out, when you will be available again and who to contact in your absence.
- Alert the appropriate people that some queries or tasks may come to them while you are away.
- Make a list of any in-process projects that will need attention during your time off, including relevant file locations, contact information or other pertinent data. Share this list with those who may need it.
- Tell people that you will be “off the grid” and are not taking any work with you.
- Proactively examine “what ifs” and ask employees or coworkers if there are any other circumstances or issues they can think of which need to be planned for ahead of time.
Once you’ve put your vacation plan in place—again, at least 60 days in advance, so there is plenty of time to create workable solutions—give yourself permission to unplug. Let go of office stress and enjoy life…you and your company will be better for it.
Amy Fox is President, CEO and founder of Accelerated Business Results, a leader in innovative business learning solutions, and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies on training and sales performance strategies. Learn more at www.AcceleratedBR.com.
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