Help Your Staff (and Your Company) Benefit from Their Vacations

Vacation used to be a luxury, but in today’s world it has become a necessity.

—Author unknown

Memorial Day is nearly here! It marks the official start of the summer: time to start wearing white shoes again, time to get the lawnmower tuned up, and time to go on vacation.

In spite of numerous studies pointing out the benefits of vacation, however, many people are unwilling to use all (or even some!) of their paid time off. Often this reluctance stems from worry about falling behind at work or about conveying the impression of being less than fully dedicated to their jobs.

As a manager, you’re in a position to help your staff make the most of their vacations. Their time away from the office benefits not only employees but the company, too. Stepping away from work lets people recharge their batteries and return to the office reenergized and ready to put forth their best efforts.

But they can’t really enjoy vacation—or reap its benefits—unless they are truly on vacation. To do that, they need to be fully unplugged and completely away from the office. And part of your job is to make that possible. Here’s how.

First, insist that your staff actually use their paid time off. Some of them may argue that they are essential at the office (and maybe they do indeed play key roles). But with proper planning, an office can manage fine without anyone for a short time. And besides, an employee who has a stress-induced nervous breakdown is no good to anyone. So make your people take their time off.

When employees have vacations coming up, help them get all their ducks in a row before they leave, particularly in finding people to cover their work. For example, make sure that their current projects are either wrapped up (if possible) or handed off to people who know what they’re doing and can follow through as needed.

In this role you need people who can function as more than just project babysitters. You want your vacationers to know that their projects are with people who can handle them competently. After all, employees who spend their vacation time fretting about what’s happening back in the office aren’t really on vacation.

And that brings me to the third thing managers can do to ensure that staff and their companies both get the most out of employee vacation: make sure those employees are completely out of the office, both physically and mentally. Before someone heads out the door for the last time before going on vacation, remind him to set an out-of-office notification that says “I will be out of the office until X and totally away from e-mail during that time” (and not “I will be out of the office until X but will be checking my e-mail regularly”). The notification should also include contact information for whoever is managing his projects while he’s gone.

And if a vacationing employee calls or e-mails “just to check in to see how things are going”? Tell her to get back to enjoying her vacation—and not to contact the office again until it’s over and she’s walking through the door on her first day back to work.

Some people see unwillingness to take vacation as signs of being a hard worker and loyalty to the company. That perspective can easily lead to burnout, though—and burnout doesn’t do anyoneany favors. Managers need to remind those employees that people who really want to do what’s best for the company (and themselves) should take time to off periodically. If you encourage your staff to use their paid time off (and do what you can to facilitate this), this break from routine will let them come back to the office refreshed and able to perform at their best.


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