This summer I took my first three-week vacation, and I learned a great deal about preparing for a successful vacation. With the holidays just around the corner, taking some time away to re-charge may be just what you need to finish the year strong. However, without making the conscious effort to plan time away from work, you may get lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
We all know our doctors want us to take a break from work as scientists and mental health experts agree that vacations have measurable and significant health benefits.
Some of the well-documented health benefits of taking vacations include:
- Increased exercise and sense of well-being
- Additional sleep
- Improved relationships with family
- Reduced stress and cortisol production
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
Below I’ve added a few additional business reasons for taking a vacation.
Internal control and training/succession planning.
Well-governed entities encourage vacation for two other reasons: internal control and training/succession planning. Strong internal control environments make vacations required, not just for the health of the individual – but for the health of the organization.
You see, when folks are compelled to take a vacation, it gives the organization the opportunity to have someone else fill in on the responsibilities of the vacationing employee. If the vacationing employee happened to have been involved in a fraudulent scheme, the theory is that it might come to light while the fraudster is on vacation.
From a less ominous standpoint, vacations give individuals the opportunity to fill in for others as part of a cross-training exercise. Encouraging vacations and shared responsibility for tasks builds skills and strengthens teams and, getting back to my point above, allows employees to take less worry with them on vacation as they know qualified folks are covering for them. As you can see, your vacation provides you a break to enjoy your life AND an opportunity for someone else to build their skills.
If taking regular vacations significantly reduces stress and the risk of heart disease, and actually contribute to ensuring a well-run organization, why do some companies have a mandatory “use it or lose it” policy for vacation time – and why do employees take less than the time they have earned?
A recent Glassdoor survey showed that upwards of 50% of employees take less vacation time than is available and 66% of employees work during their vacations. (Source)
Common reasons for not taking vacation time include:
- Fear of returning to a pile of work
- Concern that no one else can do your job
- Concern that it will be discovered that someone else can do your job
- The desire to appear dedicated to the company
If you want to address the issue of vacation time not taken, begin with your leaders. A corporate culture that encourages vacation time starts at the top.
Set the tone.
Management and executives lead best by example, so it is important that they take time away from work – including unplugged time, which is something that has gotten harder to do with smartphones and laptops.
Ideas come while resting.
Who doesn’t think up good ideas in the shower or while taking a long walk? The same is true – or truer – while on vacation. Leonardo da Vinci has been quoted as saying, “The greatest geniuses accomplish more when they work less.”
Stepping away demonstrates confidence in others.
While away, you give your employees the opportunity to grow and shine. If you have adequately selected, trained, and provided resources for your staff and managers, you have given them the chance to succeed and feel good. Job satisfaction improves productivity.
You cannot control everything.
Whether in the office or not, no one can control the day-to-day. Daily results come from the strategic planning and processes that should be in place and not dependent on one person. Plan well and trust the people you have hired to make good daily decisions. Having said that, there is no way to be certain that your best-thought plans and processes are solid until tested. An organization that cannot survive one person’s vacation isn’t a strong one.
There is no time like the present to put your leadership to the test. Taking that vacation sets a good example and demonstrates confidence in your plans, processes, and people. We know that regular vacations have immense health and life-saving benefits. Good leaders work hard, great leaders work hard and take vacations. A healthy bottom line begins with healthy people.