I have more than one client who hasn’t taken a vacation since 2019. For the last year and a half, every time I ask them to “just schedule it already!”, they provide some kind of excuse as to why it’s not a good time.
“I have so much to get done,” or “I’m the only person who can do what I do at the office,” or “there’s a big project coming up and they need me…” or even, “I don’t know where to go on vacation” are some of their favorite go-to responses. And while they are all masterful at their jobs, the truth is that these leaders and their teams are suffering and less effective due to exhaustion.
While all these excuses might sound valid, deep down, it’s actually fear that keeps them from taking the time they need to fully recover and regenerate.
Take Responsibility of Your Vacation Time
While you may perceive that you are indispensable, or that you won’t get promoted if you take vacation, or that people will look down on you, none of those things are true.
Here’s what is true: your brain cannot function optimally when it is exhausted. This has been scientifically proven a thousand times. Spending three hours finishing a project late at night that would have taken you 30 minutes after a good night’s sleep is a perfect example.
Here’s what’s also true:
“According to a study (June 2021) conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 41% of employed Americans feel burned out from their work, and 48% feel mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the workday. Another study conducted by Robert Half found that a quarter of workers forfeited paid time off in 2020, and a third intend to take three weeks or more of vacation time in 2021”. – Fast Company 6-23-21
While you may perceive outside pressure from your company for whatever reason, you are ultimately the only one responsible for your mental and physical wellbeing. Take your vacation days, already!
Vacation is Even More Important for Leaders
As vital as time off is for all employees, it’s even more so for people in leadership positions. There are a few reasons for this.
- There is often a disconnect between time-off policies and the culture around using them. If the company offers 15 days of PTO to all employees, but members of the leadership team never take it, imagine how this looks to the rest of the staff. It will almost certainly silently enforce the idea that vacation days are not to be used, and this can only lead to more burnout and exhaustion down the line.
- Working from home has exacerbated the issue. Some companies take the stance of, “You’re home all the time! Why do you need more vacation?” If this is your company, it’s even more important for you to set an example as a leader and take your vacation days. Working from home is not the same as time off (as we have all learned over the last year).
- Many companies are facing an avalanche of PTO requests. Thanks to a global pandemic, many of us had our vacations canceled over the last 18 months, and even more of us were cooped up in cramped quarters with family members. The world is ready for a vacation, and companies are struggling to balance everyone’s PTO (not to mention The Great Resignation). Yes, it’s a challenge. And yes, you should still put in your request for time off! A solution will arise.
As a leader, you MUST figure out how to give your employees the time off they need, or there’s a good chance you’ll see them jumping ship sometime soon.
Notice the Disconnect at Your Company (if There is One)
There is a disconnect between time-off policies and the culture around using them in many companies. I hear leaders being afraid of losing their job, not being promoted, being seen as lazy, needing to be seen as indispensable, having impossible demands on their performance, and on and on.
This is most certainly an American problem: We all feel like we need to be available at all times, while in other countries (especially in Europe) people are much freer to take their vacation time.
Finally, if you do work for a company that will shame you, keep you in a box, or otherwise penalize you for taking a vacation, well… it’s probably time to update your resume.
Look, here’s the bottom line: if you feel like I described your situation in this blog post, you must immediately find a new perspective on your vacation time and take time off. Let go of the whole “exhaustion as a status symbol” and “productivity as a measure of self-worth” dialogue. Instead, “cultivate play and rest,” to quote one of my favorite leadership experts, Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly.
How will you get started today? Shoot me a note to let me know!