(Post by TANVEER NASEER)
With summer now in full swing, it’s only natural that conversations abound as to when and where we’ll be taking our summer vacation. And yet, the findings of a number of recent studies reveal that while our thoughts might be on summer vacation, few of us are actually taking them. And if we do, we tend to bring work along with us.
In the American Management Association (AMA) article, “Vacation, No Vacation, or Work-ation?”, the results from a number of surveys on the issue of employees and vacation time are discussed, including:
- An Adweek/Harris Poll survey which found that only 40% of US employees took a summer vacation last year and half of this group admitted that they planned or did work during their vacation.
- A Harris Interactive poll for JetBlue which found that while more than 60% of employees believed they deserved their vacation time, 57% had unused vacation time by the end of 2011. This same survey found that 39% of employees expressed reservations about asking their boss about taking time off work for a vacation.
- Based on the results of Expedia’s 2011 Vacation Deprivation Survey, CNN/Money calculated that the amount of vacation time that goes unused by US employees is worth over $34 billion in benefits.
Perhaps the most interesting finding comes from a recent survey released last month by CareerBuilder which shows that while 81% of managers plan or have taken a vacation break this year, only 65% of full-time employees have plans to do the same.
Although it’s clear from this last finding that leaders at least appreciate the importance of taking a vacation for the health and future success of their organization, their employees unfortunately are opting instead to forgo this annual break from the work routine.
Indeed, according to the Expedia 2011 Vacation Deprivation Survey, US employees are beginning to “treat vacation as a luxury rather than a fact of life”.
Granted, today’s tough economy does make it hard to go on a vacation outside one’s region. However, we shouldn’t confuse the ability to take our family on a vacation trip with the importance of giving ourselves a break from our work.
In light of these findings, I’d like to share the following points of why leaders should encourage their employees to make time this summer for a vacation break from work.
1. Vacations allow your employees to renew their productivity and sense of purpose
By now, we’ve all read about how valuable it is to take time in your day for breaks to sustain your productivity as well as to nurture those much sought-after creative breaks. While this can keep us going on a daily or even weekly basis, they’re a poor substitution for giving yourself a chance to unplug from work to rest your body and mind.
A vacation is also a great way to allow your employees to better manage the stresses they put on themselves in the pursuit of a “work-life” balance. Being able to connect meaningfully with those in their personal life will have a big impact on their ability to remain connected with the shared purpose of your organization.
2. Vacations are not a luxury but a part of your employees’ remuneration
As mentioned above, there’s a growing perception that taking vacations is more of a luxury, no doubt in large part due to the increasing financial stresses most families are experiencing as a result of the current economic climate.
While it’s understandable in this light why many employees might choose to forgo taking time off work, it’s important for leaders to remind their employees that their vacation time is a part of their remuneration for the work they do. After all, I doubt any of us would willingly leave $34 billion on the table given how much we’re now expected to achieve within the same number of hours.
Also, considering the growing challenges most organizations face with retaining employees, it’s important for your bottom line that vacation periods don’t become viewed as being a “perk” akin to having a gym in your facility.
As most organizations can’t afford salary raises, it’s vital that leaders remind their employees that their vacation time is not a gift, but something that’s been hard-earned and deserved as a means to prevent attrition within their teams.
3. Vacations encourage employees to be less dependent on key players
One of the challenges all of us grapple with when we leave work for vacation is how will things operate while we’re gone? What kinds of problems or messes will we have to deal with because we took time away from work?
Invariably, these concerns end up being largely unfounded with the only headache being an overflowing inbox of emails to tackle (unless you’re one of the 35% of employees who check in while on vacation).
That doesn’t change the fact, though, that many of us like to think we’re indispensable and that any time spent away from work would introduce potential risks due to others not knowing how to manage things while you’re gone.
Given how 81% of managers are taking (or will take) time off work, at least the message of demonstrating to their team that they can manage without them is taking hold. Now, it’s important for leaders to share that message with those they lead so that individual team members understand that they can and must learn how to manage without the support of key players if their team is to remain competitive under any circumstance.
4. Vacations allow your employees to pursue other interests/needs
Consider how much is written about programs like the one at Google, where employees are given time during the work week to work on whatever project they want, the only condition being that after a given set of time, they present to the rest of the team what they’ve been working on. Discussions around these programs tend to focus on how it can stimulate your employees’ creativity and possibly even discover new solutions or opportunities for your organization.
And yet, if you think about it, the reason these programs succeed in engaging employees is not simply because it allows them to express their creativity. Rather, it’s because it shows employees that their leaders understand that they have needs and interests beyond those at work and consequently, try to find ways to give their employees opportunities to spend time working on them.
While most organizations might not be able to allocate time at work for employees to spend on outside projects/interests, they certainly can afford to provide opportunities for employees to take time off work to do just that.
As uncertainties continue to swirl around the state of today’s global economy – and the impact it has on our own country’s economy – it’s understandable that more and more employees will find themselves holding back from taking their vacation time in order to remain at their posts.
In light of this – and given the benefits to be gained both for your employees and your organization – it’s important that leaders make a stronger push to ensure their employees take advantage of this hard-earned opportunity to take a prolonged break from their daily grind. Both your employees and the rest of your team will thank you for it.
Tanveer Naseer, Montreal
Tanveer is a business coach who works with managers and executives to help them develop their leadership skills and team strategies for future growth, while ensuring they remain focused on what makes them passionate about what they do. You can read more of his writings on leadership and workplace interactions on his award-winning blog at TanveerNaseer.com. You can also follow him on Twitter – @TanveerNaseerTweet