“I can’t take any of my vacation days because there is too much work when I get back!” I’d often hear claims like that when I took over a team. At first, it seemed like these people must have a good work ethic. They wanted to get things done, and I was glad they worked so hard. But I was wrong. My team needs to use all their vacation days. And it’s my fault if they don’t.
My team felt like they couldn’t leave because everything would fall apart when they left. So we created systems and processes that will outlive all of us at the company. Our focus is to become obsolete. That may sound strange. But it’s liberating. When workers create systems that don’t require them individually, they are much more likely to go on vacation. And our business works more efficiently because of it.
When your team members think they can’t leave for a day, they’re implicitly saying that they can’t trust their coworkers. That’s why it is essential to build trust among the team. Get them to share what they’re working on individually with everyone. On my team, we have a series of meetings led by team members that we title “What to Do When I’m Gone.” This gives everyone more confidence that tasks will be complete when they do take a vacation. And it gives us all helpful tips that we would have never discovered otherwise.
Be an Example
When employees see their boss working nonstop, they feel expected to follow suit. So when the boss takes a vacation, employees feel free to do the same. Be conscious of walking the walk, whether it’s scheduling a day or two off to unplug or pitching in to cover for employees who are away. It’s also vital not to make any off-handed remarks about someone who uses vacation. Don’t let anyone in the organization make anyone else feel guilty about taking time off. Work should be a no vacation-shaming zone.
Vacations are Good for Business and Health
Research shows that vacation can improve productivity, health, and chances of promotion. Vacations improve an employee’s focus (78 percent) and alleviate burnout (81 percent). Americans have a dreadful track record of taking time off. A survey found that 52% of people didn’t take all their paid vacation days in the past year, leaving an average of 7.2 days unused.
Employees are much happier at firms that encourage vacation (68 percent) in contrast to those workplaces where vacation is discouraged or managers are ambivalent (42 percent).
Taking vacations reduces the risk of health issues. Men who don’t take a vacation for several years are 30% more likely to have heart attacks. Women who vacationed once every six years were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations per year.
Working hard is vital. But don’t assume that coworkers who don’t take time off are their most productive selves. Create systems and build trust amongst your team. You will have a highly functioning team that doesn’t skip a beat when someone is out of the office.