I recently returned home from a 10-day vacation in Hawaii. It was a wonderfully relaxing experience, although it did take a few days before I could fully jettison all of the business “stuff” rolling around in my head.
Once I could fully disengage from what was happening on the mainland I could literally “feel” the restorative power of just kicking back and enjoying the time off.
That rest and recovery did me a lot of good, because I sit here today with a ton of renewed energy and focus.
And I realized something that was even more significant – as business leaders we MUST acknowledge the value of “time off” for our teammates, and, even more importantly, for OURSELVES.
I’ve considered myself a “hard charger” throughout my professional career – I’ve gone many years where I didn’t take the vacations that I was entitled to, or worse, turned a few vacations into remote work sessions.
In hindsight these were bad decisions – the ability to disconnect from our busy lives and recharge our human batteries, even if those disconnections are of a relatively short duration, has been proven to be one of the best productivity tools a leader can possibly possess.
There was a great piece in the NY Times today by Tony Schwartz that presented a ton of evidence to support this claim.
He cited an item from Ernst & Young where in 2006 they “did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent“.
Just getting more sleep every night can make a huge difference. Schwartz noted that in a recent study of nearly 400 employees “researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out.“. And, he quoted a Harvard analysis that estimated that “sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity”.
Even 15 minute breaks, or a short catnap, can help us.
With all this evidence staring at us, the question becomes, why are we still so addicted to work, work, and more work?
Ultimately, it’s all a matter of leadership expectations, and the examples that we set.
If a leader is a workoholic, never takes vacations, is in the office until 8PM every night, sends out e-mail on the weekends, and sees “time worked” as the best measuring stick instead of “productivity”, then everyone else will have to follow that lead.
This “follow the pack” mentality was a lot of my motivation to skip vacations and stay very late at the office – EVERYONE else, including my boss, was doing it.
Sure, we attempted to “enforce” vacations by putting strong language in our employee manuals for everyone to take them, but that only made us THINK that everyone was getting their appropriate R & R.
In the end, it all flows from the top.
Leaders MUST see the incredible value of rest and recovery, and they not only need to talk that talk, but walk that walk.
Let’s take the breaks we need to rejuvenate ourselves, and give our teammates the same opportunities.
The productivity gains will make a huge difference.
And better still, as fellow humans, we can also improve the quality of our lives.
I hadn’t WATCHED and marveled at a sunrise for many years – until last week. It signaled a new day, a new perspective, and a renewed spirit.
Get your R & R, and lead well!