Taking a Vacation

A good vacation is over when you begin to yearn for your work.  ~Morris Fishbein

I associate the month of August with vacation time. Not that I haven’t taken vacations at other times of the year, skiing in the winter, experiencing the fall in New England or touring Tuscany in late March. But August just feels like vacation. Summer is beginning to wind down. If you have family, it is one last time to enjoy the kids before school begins. And if you haven’t seen your Uncle Harry back in Dubuque, August is the perfect month for a visit.

I am planning on taking a vacation this month and I started thinking about vacations and what most people think about them and how important they should be in our work life. Consider the following.

  • If you had two job offers that were the same except one offered 2 weeks vacation and the other 4 weeks would you take the latter?
  • Would you actually take all 4 weeks of vacation?
  • Do you spend a certain amount of time checking in with your office while on vacation?
  • As a business leader, do you encourage your employees to take their vacations and not check in with the office?
  • If you manage people, have you trained them well enough to “hold down the fort” while you are on vacation?

You can provide your own answers, but most people will answer YES to the first, NO to the second, YES to the third, NO to the fourth and NOT SURE to the fifth. Let me explain.

First, if both job offers were the same everyone would take the 4 week vacation package. When we are recruiting for our clients, we often use the benefits the company offers as a selling point. We also consider the client’s culture and their attitude towards vacation. Do they encourage taking vacations or is it mere lip service? Do they look for the signs of work overload and potential burn out? Do they want their employees to feel comfortable in having a life-work balance? These are more important points to consider when looking for a job and considering an offer. It is not how much vacation time is offered, rather how much vacation time you are encouraged to take that really matters.

Second, most people typically don’t take all of their vacation time no matter how much they are allowed to take. And if they do take the time, it is sometimes spent dealing with non-vacation issues, sick child, helping a friend with an emergency, helping a relative through a crisis. But not a vacation.

Third, when people do take a vacation they are most often just a click away from the office, checking emails, checking voice mail, checking on their employees. There is this sense that the office or work could not go on without us, that our employees can not function without checking with us, or being checked by us, that our own jobs are more dependent on our being “there and visible” than on our individual production while we are there. This is not a vacation.

Fourth, there are business leaders who do get it, who do understand the value of a vacation and how important time away from work is to how well workers respond and produce once back from a true vacation. They are energized, excited, refreshed, engaged, focused, relaxed, more creative and productive. Just the type of employee any good business leader would want to have. Can you identify with this leader?

Fifth, the sign of a good manager is that you are always looking to replace yourself. You want to move up in your company then you need someone or many someones who are capable and have been trained to take over and step in when your time comes. Taking a vacation and leaving your well trained staff to function without you is the best way to test how well they have been trained. Barring a major crisis and assuming that you are not planning to take a 6 month vacation, a good manager should feel comfortable in letting his/her people hold down the fort. Are you this type of manager?

No matter what type of vacation you take, where you decide to spend it or for how long, all vacations should be enjoyed, and be a time to recharge the batteries, to decompress, to relax, to discover, to reengage with old interests and passions, to leave work, all work at work. Try this the next time you take a vacation, you will be happy with the results and so will your boss, your co-workers and your staff.

I am off on my vacation and will not be checking in with the office. I am leaving my well trained staff to carry on and continue doing the great work that they always do. I plan to travel, to relax and to come back to work with some new ideas, new perspectives and a rededication to my company and our clients. That is a Vacation. Bon Voyage!

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