Taking time off has been a significant topic of note and study among business thought leaders and coaches in recent years. We’ve all see the statistics about the benefits of recharging and giving your best “you” to the company that employs you. Innovative companies are rolling out parental leave policies and increasingly flexible work hours. It’s important to recognize the progress that Americans have made in their willingness to take time away from this office. For the second year in a row, the overall average of the number of days taken off by the average American has ticked up, from 16.2 to 16.8 according to Project: Time Off.
However, despite the extensive amounts of research and evidence of the benefits of taking time away and increase in time taken off from employees, managers and owners have remained unwilling to take their allotted number of days off per year. 61% of individuals at the management level or above admitted that they left paid time off on the table in the previous year, versus 52% of non-managers. This “do as I say, not as I do” mentality is doing companies no favors. Oxford Economics recently discovered $224 billion in liabilities on the books for American companies due to unused vacation days. Take it from a few CPAs- those are real dollars and should cause alarm among businesses of all sizes. Here are three things that all business owners and executives should keep in mind about taking time off to grow as a person and maintain a healthy company culture.
1. Model What You Hope to See
80% of managers that are surveyed claim that they believe that employees taking their full time off is crucial for maintaining energy levels and employees to remain productive. However, if employees are seeing a constantly on-the-job, overworked owner, they’ll come to believe that it is the expectation. Guilt will be layered on top of taking this time off, along with increased resentment from fellow team members when time off is taken by someone. Empower your employees by setting clear expectations and being candid about time off. If there is a busy season in your industry, make sure that employees know well in advance that time off during this period might be challenging or require more advanced planning instead of wincing and growing frustrated after the request has been made. Showing your team by example that taking time off is valuable is the surest way to ensure they take it as well.
2. Everyone’s time off looks different- and that’s ok.
In her role at her consultancy Whitespace at Work, Juliet Funt aims to help businesses battle against what she labels “reactive busyness” and aim toward finding “whitespace,” or a strategic pause in between your busyness. Even in small chunks, such as a five-minute window to reflect on the important points covered during a meeting or few minutes prior to an all hands meeting to think about what is truly important for your audience to gain, can be incredibly freeing to business leaders. Funt is careful to recommend avoiding “cognitive breaks” activities like checking social media, which still engage our mind and fail to allow the room to contemplate and think about solutions to problems.
This mindset translates well to extended rest for business owners. As owners ourselves, we fully understand that it’s nearly impossible to completely disengage from your company. If allowing yourself some grace during vacations, such as scheduled 30-minute window to check your email or to call your assistant, allows you to truly rest during the day, it really is ok. The goal of this time is to allow yourself to maximize your “whitespace,” so putting parameters up can take the pressure off during vacations and allow you to truly enjoy yourself.
3. Taking Time Off Empowers Your Leaders
Do you remember when you were learning to drive as a teenager? If you were anything like us, you felt a significant amount of angst when your parent was in the car with you, ready to instruct or judge every detail of your journey. The same rule applies to management in your companies. Simply put, even when your leadership style is overwhelmingly positive, your management beneath you will never fully thrive if you are constantly present. Prepare them properly in advance of your departure and let them know the expectations, but empower them to prove themselves and show their added value to the company. Consider giving your team an additional challenge to accomplish, along with an incentive to allow the new leaders to flex their creative skills in motivating the team in your absence. Leaving gives you a chance to empower your team through showing that you have confidence in their leadership, talent, and ethical commitment to your company. If you can’t trust them when you’re gone, why are they there in the first place?