Over a decade ago, I was coordinating a work/life program for faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota and wrote an article about the importance of taking your vacation. Amazingly, not many of the statistics on overwork and vacation use have changed since then.
Jobs can be greedy things, gobbling up all the time we give them. Nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. employees feel overworked, according to the Families and Work Institute. That overwork has serious implications for safety in the workplace, job performance, retention, and health care costs. According to a recent survey conducted by research firm Harris Interactive, only 51% of employees use their eligible vacation time and paid time off. Even more concerning, their findings showed that 61% of Americans work while they’re on vacation, despite complaints from family members. And one-in-four reported being contacted by a colleague or boss about a work-related matter while taking time off.
Vacations are an important rest, recovery, and renewal strategy for creating work/life balance–especially in our fast-paced, 24/7 world. They provide an opportunity to recharge our batteries, so that we can return to work refreshed.
As leaders, it’s not only an important strategy to take your vacation, but to model that behavior for those you lead. I still recall a conversation with a former college president from early in my career. She had served as director of the Office for Women at the American Council on Education and as an executive coach to other senior leaders. When I asked her what one piece of advice she had to share with leaders about work/life balance, she said that taking time off was absolutely critical for leaders to avoid burnout. Her personal strategy to avoid burnout was taking one week off every three months. And she advocated that every leader find something outside of work that they were passionate about and that fed their soul. For her, it was playing piano that helped her to regain some sense of work/life balance.
Do you have something outside of work that re-energizes you? What rest, recovery, and renewal strategies work best for you?
Last week I discovered that my children’s spring breaks fall in the same week, which is a mini-miracle since one is in college a few hours away and the other one is in our local high school. If the stars align and my husband can get the week off, we might just be able to squeeze in a short vacation this spring to visit my sister and her family in Florida. The chance to reconnect with extended family and the prospect of even a few hours on a sandy beach sounds like rest and renewal to me. I’ll let you know how that goes.
In the meantime, I encourage you to take your vacation, please.