Vacation on the Need for Vacations

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The next installment of the Vacation movie will be released this month and, once again, the Griswolds are taking a family vacation across the country to visit the amusement park Walley World. In what was once a common occurrence, the Griswolds scrimped and saved, planned and prepared to make sure their trip was just right. Unfortunately, nowadays many of us are not making the same arrangements.

Last year ended with a national total of 429 million unused vacation days. Most of this paid time off is not carried over into the next year and thus lost into the ethers of the workday. And, for those who dare to take vacations, studies show that technology has tethered us to the office – 61% plan to work during their time off with 38% emailing, 32% accessing work documents, and 50% making phone calls.

Before I begin to sound holier than thou, I am someone who tends to check email, texts, calls while on vacation. It’s not persistent and does not interrupt time with my family, but I enjoy my job and feel more relaxed when I know what’s happening. By the way, this is the problem:

When leaders mention doing work on vacation because we sincerely like work, we are indicating that staff are also expected to demonstrate their dedication to work by working during their time off.

Project Time Off, a research initiative from the U.S. Travel Association, found that the leader’s communication of and perception about vacations is a primary deterrent in employees taking time off. Almost 70% of employees said they heard either nothing, mixed messages, or negative messages about taking vacation time. More than half of the managers studied admit they are not “setting a good example for using vacation.” Include the fact that 20% of managers question the loyalty of employees who take all their earned days, and it’s easy to understand why staff are choosing to remain in the office.

To change the viewpoint that vacations are for the disengaged and/or lazy, the Harvard Business Review found that taking a vacation increases the likelihood of getting a raise or promotion. These individuals are not getting promoted because of the vacation itself; they move up in the organization due to the benefits of the vacation. Periodic breaks are necessary to gain perspective and replenish energy. This results in more positive thinking which, according to the HBR article, increases productivity by 31%, sales by 37%, and creativity and revenues by up to 300%.

This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much f–g fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! – Clark Griswold

Let’s follow the Griswold’s example – take some time off and encourage your staff to do the same. Ensure that your leadership team does not send mixed signals about the importance of vacations and engrain the need for time off into your culture. I’m not recommending a trip to Walley World (if the prices are anything like Disney World, we’d have to give raises so people can afford it), just time to disconnect for a few days.

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