Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Can Your Workplace Survive if You Take a Vacation?

Did you know that the world will fall apart if you take a vacation this year? That’s right – stop spinning on its axis. The oceans will run dry and the birds will fall by the thousands out of the trees.

OK, that sounds ridiculous. But we sometimes get so caught up in our own work we truly believe that we can’t take time away. So, we put our shoulders to the wheel, getting more stressed and less productive every day.

And, even those who do manage to pack the bags and head for some time away often lug with them their computer, Blackberry, phone and files.

Specifically, vacation time not only allows your body to physically relax and recharge, which is critical to your long-term health, but it also allows you to become more valuable to your employer.

A new CareerBuilder survey finds that 56 percent of 4,800 workers surveyed report they need some time off now more than they have in the last several years. As the economy has slowly improved and there's less worry about being laid off, 36 percent say they feel more at ease taking vacation time than they did last year.

Now that it’s clear that taking vacation is critical for you not only personally and professionally, let’s look at ways to make you not only feel better about taking the time away, but to make sure the world doesn’t crumble in your absence:

· Communicate. Several weeks before you leave, make sure everyone knows that you’ll be gone. Remind your boss of your vacation, and let clients and co-workers know how long you will be gone. Meet with colleagues who will be covering your job and leave them important phone numbers, e-mails and any deadlines. Ask co-workers and your boss what they need from you before you leave, which will hopefully cut down on the need to contact you during vacation.

· Establish boundaries. Sometimes it’s not possible to be completely away from work, but don’t be too readily available. If you must, tell your office you will check in at a certain time each day (tell them you’ll be out of cell phone or Internet range), and then stick to it. Also, set a time limit on how much you will work, such as 30 minutes a day.

· Invest in your vacation. Some people fall into the trap of not taking a vacation or working on vacation because they think the time away is boring or a waste of time. But only when you clear your mind of your usual clutter do you become open to new ideas and let your creativity flow. Doing something totally different from your everyday life is what recharges your batteries and makes you even more valuable when you return to work. Keep telling yourself that staring at the ocean is a good thing, and another ride on that rollercoaster is an investment in your career.

· If you don’t play, you pay. Americans get the least amount of vacation days a year with 14 days (France gets 37 days, Great Britain gets 26 days), but surveys show that Americans leave an average of three days unused. But studies have also shown that vacations can reduce stress that often leads to health problems. And, by enjoying time away, you return better able to cope with the mental and physical demands of a workplace that operates in a 24/7 global climate.

Finally, don’t sabotage your own vacation. Arrive back home a day or two early to just do laundry, sort through your mail and newspapers and stock the refrigerator. This will help ease your transition back into your daily routine and not make the first day of work seem so overwhelming.

And remember, when you go back to work, take a small memento of your time away and put it where you can see it. That way, you’ll remember that it was all worth it – and take another vacation when it comes time.

Are you taking time off this year? Why or why not?



Patricia said...

I am currently on vacation and these are good tips. Sometimes it is hard not to peek to see what is going on at the office, but I have advised my boss and assistant that I will check emails on Friday so if they need anything they can be assured I will see it then and I am looking forward to not checking until then.

My boss told me when he takes time off and goes to his cottage he loves chopping wood. He likes the physical exercise, but mostly just the fact that it doesn't require much thinking. He is a busy CEO so his job requires a lot of strategizing and thinking and to do something totally unrelated to what he does day in and day out is very relaxing and re-energizes him.

I found that advice very helpful and try to do things that are different from what I do everyday such as spending time with my grandson at the beach or the park. Having friends over for a BBQ or even mowing the lawn.

Great article and very timely for me. Although I do start to get a bit anxious the night before I go back to work as I know I will have 100+ emails to deal with, but I normally go through and delete those I don't need to deal with and that eliminates some at least before I arrive on Monday morning.

When my daughter was young, before we went on vacation I would clean the house from top to bottom before I left so when I got back I always came back to a sparkling clean house and all I had to do was the laundry. It made coming home relaxing knowing everything was done.

Anita said...

I had to smile when reading your comment, as I also clean house before I leave. My family thinks I'm crazy, but I feel better coming home to one less thing to do. I also find that doing something totally unrelated to my job helps recharge my brain and help me come up with more creative and focused ideas -- and the science backs that up. I'm glad you're working for someone who sees the value in time off -- let's hope more bosses encourage their workers to take a break. Thanks for your comments!