The good news is you get paid vacation, the bad news is you can’t take it without paying the price. Unfortunately this has become a more common occurrence. Since the recession companies have had to run lean, which means fewer people to do more work. You would think that with fewer people, more people would be crossed trained to cover vacation. Unfortunately that has not seemed to be the case. Technology that makes employees accessible 24/7 is equally to blame. As well as the underlying fear of workers that they may be viewed as dispensable if their employer can get along without them for a period of time.
With August being one of the busiest vacation months of the year, it seems timely to broach this topic for workers and employers alike.
Time and time again, I hear that workers are afraid to take vacation. They say that coming back to an inbox that is busting at the seams is just not worth it. And that when they do try to take vacation they are expected to take calls, respond to emails and “emergencies” and call into meetings. Truly “unplugging” doesn’t seem to be an option. So they sneak into town from the cabin where they get a better cell phone signal to call into a meeting or they check email once everyone has gone to bed or return early to prepare for a presentation or finish a project. All to the dismay of their family which only fuels tension on the home front.
Employers on the other hand have often created a culture that requires 110% of employee effort, 110% of the time. Despite efforts to create an employee focused workplace, when push comes to shove, timelines are short and profits come into play. An employee focus work environment is not part of the picture. Employers reward the employees who go the extra mile, work the extra hours, put vacations on hold all for the best interest of the company.
Both of these vantage points each lead to one thing – burnout. Vacation time is not just a nice to have but a must. It is only when workers are truly able to unplug for an extended period of time (not just a long weekend) that they can rest and re-energize. They regain perspective, they are able to tap into their creative juices. They are able to bring 110% of themselves back to the job. Employers who have imposed mandatory vacation have found that their workforce is much more engaged and productive. Some manufacturers have a week or 2 shut down where the machines are cleaned, systems are updated and inventory is organized. It is a time to “clean house” so to speak. I think all employers regardless of industry could benefit from a shut down week. So that when everyone returns from vacation both employer and employees have a fresh start.