By Tanveer Naseer
The arrival of August marks the half-way point of summer. If you haven’t yet made definite plans for a summer get-away, it’s now or never.
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 of the workplace.
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.
While this stoicism might appear admirable, the reality is that such decisions are actually more harmful than beneficial for your organization and your employees.
If you think you shouldn’t take time off from work this summer, here are four reasons why should reconsider:
1. Taking time off work recharges your productivity and ability to perceive new directions.
There is a definite connection 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. By taking a vacation, you serve as an example to your workers.
When it comes to good leadership practices, a common axiom is “leading by example,” that is, encouraging the behaviors and commitments you’d like to see in your employees by first exhibiting them yourself.
Ironically, by choosing to forgo taking a vacation, leaders are not so much showing support for their employees as they are demonstrating to them how little they value or consider it necessary for employees to take time off work. Employees who do opt to go on vacation can feel ostracized by others on the team when everyone else from the leadership on down decides 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 is that we’re indispensable to our team or organization; that workers wouldn’t know how to proceed in our absence. While this might make you feel good about your contributions, it is far from a healthy situation for the organization, both in terms of the company’s growth and overall morale. By taking time off from work, leaders 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. When the leader take a vacation, it 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. Management may worry that the company risks losing key players in their organization. By reminding your team that their vacation time is a part of their overall remuneration—and more importantly, by allowing them to actually take this time off work—leaders can demonstrate to their employees that they understand the importance and necessity of having time to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
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, 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 the value of vacation time and encourage employees to take advantage of taking these breaks as well.
In today’s challenging 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.
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 use their vacation time to step away from the challenges currently on their plate. They will gain a fresh perspective and with it, new ideas about how to most effectively attain these shared goals.
So this summer, don’t throw away your chance to leave the office behind for awhile. Vow to spend some time with your family and/or pursuing your other interests. Trust me: your employees will be thankful that you did.
About the Author(s)
Tanveer Naseer is a business coach who works with small to medium-size businesses to help them develop their leadership skills and team strategies for future growth, while ensuring they remain focused on what makes them passionate about their business. His blog is ranked as one of the Top 25 Management & Leadership Blogs of 2011. For more information: www.tanveernaseer.com