EVERYONE needs a vacation from time to time. It is healthy for us to take a break from the day-to-day grind. Breaks allow us to take a breather, to gain perspective, and often to come back more relaxed, freer, and more productive. Many employers do not fully understand the benefit vacations have on employee productivity.
Some employers are afraid to give employees time off as they worry about company output, deadlines, productivity, and ultimately, profit for investors. Again, the pressure on employers to maintain a high-functioning company will often push them to do something that is counter-productive….. push employees to give more time and take fewer breaks. The irony is that, while counterintuitive to some, it is a well-known reality that breaks = higher productivity. If an employer wants the best functioning organization, then promoting employees taking care of themselves should be a number one concern.
Why do we need breaks? Everyone needs a breather. A year and a half ago my father died. It was September. I found that, for months, I was physically at work, but not working to my fullest potential. I had such a stressful experience dealing with the reality of my father’s death that my work productivity was not at the level I would have liked it to be. When winter break rolled around in December I told my partner that I NEEDED a vacation. We went to Italy, it was wonderful – getting away and seeing a beautiful part of this world was exactly what I needed. It was what our whole family needed. The girls loved the sights (well, not as much as we would have liked – they were more excited to see the Trevi fountain because it was in the Lizzy McGuire Movie!) And I, I needed to be able to wander though a new place, experience new things, and leave all of the stress from the fall behind me. The adventure allowed me to walk away from all that had happened and experience life in the moment.
When I returned to work two weeks later I was in a MUCH healthier place. In fact, even though I had worked continually since September, I felt like I was mentally checking in for the first time in months. I felt like I was finally back in the game, I was able to focus and be with my employees, I was able to give my job my fullest attention. I had done nothing wrong in the previous months, there was no time for a break before December and I did technically do my job, meet my deadlines, etc. Every task I completed was just in the shadow of all that I had been through. The difference was my own attitude and devotion. When I returned in January I was refreshed and able to give of myself with the dedication and devotion I want to commit to my workplace.
A vacation does not have to be a fancy, expensive trip to Paris or Rome, a vacation can even occur in your own backyard. The importance is the change of pace and break from the demands your job and life are placing on you.
If you are finding that work is a chore, you need to ask yourself why. Do you need a change of workplace, work environment, or career, or do you just need a break in order to refresh, gain perspective, and return to your workplace with new energy and new eyes?
Do you have an employer that does not believe in breaks? Perhaps it is time to educate them about the correlation between proper vacations and employee productivity. It should also be noted that many studies have shown that employee productivity sharply decreases after 40 hours in a given week. Therefore, sometimes when employees work fewer hours they actually get more done. A refreshed employee will achieve more in 40 hours than an overworked exhausted employee will accomplish in 55.
Today, 340 days ’til 40, I am going to remind myself that it is okay to take vacations and breaks. I will take vacations guilt-free with the understanding that they increase my productivity. I will set an example as an employer and model the need to take time for myself – as I take time for myself, I give my employees permission to do the same.
Hmmmm – where will my next adventure be???