Congratulations, you have survived another busy season. I trust you’ve taken time to thank your employees for a job well done and to celebrate their achievements individually and as a team. It truly takes a village to be successful in this industry.
Now that things have slowed down, I hope you’re taking time to refresh, restore and rejuvenate. Just as plants go dormant in the winter so they can bloom again in the spring, it’s important to recharge your batteries when business slows down.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where people are working longer hours, yet leaving more and more vacation days on the table every year. According to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off, 55 percent of Americans didn’t take all their vacation days in 2015, up from 42 percent in 2013.
The study cites numerous reasons people don’t take time off. The top two reasons are the fear that either no one else can do their job, or that they will be rewarded by having to come back to a mountain of work. Others want to show dedication to their company or are concerned that if they do take time off, they will be passed over for a promotion.
As the leader goes, so goes the team. If you’re a workaholic who never takes time off, your employees will be reluctant to as well. Before you start thinking, “That sounds great,” I invite you to consider the long-term costs of fatigue, rigidity, stress, increased healthcare costs and loss of creativity and innovation.
Four things that you can do to help your team refresh, restore and rejuvenate:
1. Model that taking time off to recharge is critical to success and well-being. When you come back energized with a smile on your face and new ideas for the future, you strongly signal that you want your team to do the same. State your beliefs and the message becomes even stronger.
2. Monitor vacation days. Ensure your full-time staff regularly takes time off by monitoring their vacation days and insisting they schedule time away from work. While you can’t force them to go on vacation and a week might not always be feasible, you can at a minimum require them to take the occasional long weekend or leave work early.
3. Cross-train and create a team mindset. No one wants to return to double the work. You can kill two birds with one stone by cross training people on how to do the tasks of other people’s jobs. This ensures individuals can take a vacation without worrying about all the work that will be waiting for them, and that your department and organization has the safety net of having someone in the wings who can hit the ground running on any given day.
4. Create a “don’t check in” policy. In today’s hyper-connected world, it can be challenging to truly disengage from email and work. When an individual is on vacation, create the expectation that unless it is absolutely critical, they will not be contacted, and they are expected to unplug from work while on vacation. Record new voicemails and set emails to auto respond with a message that tells them when you’ll be back and whom they should contact in case they need immediate assistance.
While it may be scary to leave, if your people aren’t up to the task of covering work and keeping things running smoothly while you’re gone, you’ve dropped the ball on training and are crippling your staff and organization. No one should be indispensable, not even you!