Jason Lauritsen - Crushing talent dogma to free human potential

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Does your company discourage vacations?

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting chat with my Lyft driver on the way to the airport in San Francisco.

He was a career business development professional who uses Lyft to supplement his income. Our conversation turned to company culture and work experience (shocking, I know).

He told me about how he had changed jobs and moved his family to Sacramento because he worked for a company that consumed every moment of his life.

When he wasn’t traveling, he was expected to attend client events in the evenings. His wife and family hardly ever saw him.

Then there was the whole issue of vacation. He shared a story with me about a time early in his career when he’d qualified for a company-paid sales incentive trip to Hawaii.

He invited his girlfriend to go along. She agreed based on one condition–that he leaves his laptop at home. She knew that if he brought it, he’d work much of the time. He knew it too but didn’t feel like he had a choice. He chose the laptop and ended up making the trip alone.

At this same company, he described the ritual guilt trip that would be applied by management every time he tried to request vacation days. They’d always say the same thing, “We’ve got so much going on right now, can’t you find another time to go?”

He felt so tied to his work that he couldn’t disconnect, ever.  And, it had an impact on him and his family. Thus, he finally left.

I wish his experience was a unique one and that he just happened to work for a company that was getting it wrong. But, I know too many people who have had the same experience to think that’s true.

And, the data seems to suggest the same.

According to the 2018 Work and Well-being Survey recently published by the American Psychological Association, despite 76% of respondents saying that taking vacation time is important to them, only 41% reported that their organization’s culture encouraged taking time off.

That’s 6 out of 10 organizations where the employees feel like they are discouraged from taking a vacation. Let that sink in.

So, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that 65% of respondents reported that the positive benefits they feel as a result of taking a vacation (when they do take it) either disappear immediately or within a few days.

This is crazy.

And it’s symptomatic of much deeper cultural and performance issues. If you feel like you cannot be gone from work for fear of lost opportunity or what might happen while you are out, that suggests a teamwork or trust deficiency.

If you don’t want to take vacation time because you feel penalized by a backlog of work that occurs while you are out, that’s a process and work design problem.

If you don’t want to request vacation because of how guilty your manager makes you feel about it, that’s a leadership failure.

The pace and intensity of work have increased steadily over the past couple decades thanks largely to technology. We spend more time connected to work than ever before.

That makes vacation time more important than ever before. People need time away from work to rest and connect to the things that are important in their life (family, friends, travel, etc.).

This weekend, I’m leaving for a week of summer vacation with my family. I didn’t realize how much I needed the time away until it started to draw near. It’s been a pretty intense year so far and I have not unplugged in a long time.

Time away from work is necessary to recharge.

Organizations should encourage employees to use their time off, even require it if necessary.  And, when people leave for vacation, expect them to disconnect and give their full attention to whatever they do while they are out.

Your organization’s posture towards vacation is a good indicator of how well you are tending to an employee’s overall well-being and engagement.

If you aren’t sure how you are doing, take a peek at how much vacation time is being used. Or even more simply, go ask some employees if using vacation time is encouraged.

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Jason Lauritsen