Take a Vacation From Work!
Benefits Include Health and Productivity

Sticks note paper

“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.”

~ Earl Wilson ~

Rob’s world seems to be spinning out of control. His desk is piled high with stacks of project data. His email inbox keeps sending him overload messages. He’s often talking on his mobile phone and his office phone at the same time. He’s exhausted during the day but he can’t sleep at night. Why? Rob hasn’t taken a real vacation in more than three years.

Rob oversees a team of 25 people, with four direct reports. He consistently works 60-65 hour weeks. He’s very hesitant to even cut back on his hours because he doesn’t know how he’ll get it all done and still meet his bottom line numbers. A vacation seems like a distant dream. Besides, if he is gone even for a few days, his boss might figure out he’s not indispensable.

One day, over coffee, Rob’s co-worker, Janene, shares an article about how vacations from work improve productivity. The article says:

If you don’t use your vacation days

  • Relationships suffer
  • Health deteriorates
  • Enthusiasm disappears
  • Productivity goes down
  • Burnout and depression result
  • Life balance ceases to exist

Rob realizes that every one of those factors is true for him. The article goes on to discuss the true value of vacations:

A vacation benefits you because

  • It improves job satisfaction by minimizing burnout
  • Relationships with co-workers and family improve
  • Your morale turns positive
  • Productivity and creativity increase

Rob is still floundering in his mountain of paperwork when he realizes it’s time for his monthly call with his business coach. He hasn’t met any of his coaching benchmarks for the month so he decides to throw the whole vacation issue in his coach’s lap and ask for advice. If you see yourself in this picture, here are four of the coach’s tips to help you get off the treadmill and reclaim your life and your sanity.

1. Ask for time off when there aren’t any major projects or deadlines.
Yes, it would be great if you could hop on a plane tomorrow, but that’s not meeting either the company’s needs or your best interests. Instead, start your own mental vacation by planning. Where would you like to go? Are you an active vacationer—hiking, whitewater rafting, sailing? Or would you rather spend time at a spa or a retreat? Start to collect brochures and trip information. Pick three or four dates that might be possible.

2. Look at your current workload and choose a time off after a major project is complete.
You don’t want to just drop everything and go, leaving pieces behind for your co-workers or your boss to pick up. Determine a completion date for your most critical project and develop a plan to delegate other responsibilities to your direct reports. As a negotiating point when talking to your boss (see below) offer to work ahead on your part of a project so others can fill in around you while you’re away.

3. Give plenty of notice
The more lead time you provide, the more prepared your boss can be. What’s realistic depends a lot on your own workload, your team situation, and your company’s culture and guidelines about taking time off. Have three or four possible dates in mind so your boss can have some alternatives to think about.

4. Request the time off in-person
Never request vacation time in an email. Talk to your boss in person and do it when he or she is in a good mood and less likely to be stressed or overwhelmed. This could be on a Friday afternoon, but definitely not first thing Monday morning!

Need more ammunition? There’s plenty of research, old and new, to support the time-off concept. A study done over 100 years ago by Dr. Ernst Abbe, a German researcher, evaluated work schedules at Zeiss Optical Works and found that reducing hours by more than 10 percent actually increased worker output. In 1914, Henry Ford appalled his peers by moving production from a six-day to a five-day week. Output increased, while production costs decreased.

There’s a lesson here. Time off is an important part of your work life. You’ve earned it—now take it.

This week, make a list of five dream vacations. Research online, get brochures from a travel agent, and write down some potential dates. Write down a target date to talk to your boss.

Talkback: When was your last vacation? How did you discuss your plans with your boss and ask for time off?  Share your story here.

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4 Ways to Utilize your Finances
for Employee Retention

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“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

~St. Francis of Assisi~

Client Sarah Asks:  In this economy, money has to work very hard for us.  We want to retain our best employees.  How should we allocate our finances to maximize our retention?

Coach Joel Answers: That’s a great question, Sarah.  Your company has a number of options—different ways to spend your money.  To best motivate your workers to stay with you, you first need to understand them.

Not all workers respond the same way.  Some of your options have tax consequences that might matter to your top talent.  Others may perceive one or another of these choices as more prestigious or of greater value to them.

So your first step is to know your key players.  Assess them.  Find out what is most enticing and likely to keep them working for you.

Then choose from these four methods those that will work best for you, your employees, and your company.

1. Competitive salary. This is the first rabbit most businesses pull out of the bag.  And for a very good reason.  It is effective.A salary that pays market value means there’s no financial incentive for your worker to leave.  They can’t expect a better offer elsewhere.  And when you pay a little above average, workers may feel they are being paid extra for any small inconveniences that come with the job.

2. Bonuses.  Sometimes companies need to see how their finances play out before they can reward their employees.   They may give workers an average salary with the promise of a bonus if the company does well.

This has the added advantage of offering motivation.  Each employee sees their salary more connected to the success of the company.  They may make that extra effort to help the company succeed.

The benefit to you, Sarah, is that the company keeps its bottom line lower in difficult years, but can reward employees and keep retention up by promising bonuses in good years.

3. Fringe Benefits. Top talent may be motivated to stay with the company for certain perks.  The choice corner office.  Company car. Use of the company jet. Pizza Fridays. A nice company gym or offering child care.

Some fringe benefits offer prestige and status that is more enticing than money alone. Some may fill a compelling need of your workers.

Here is where you really need to know your employees.  What kinds of fringe benefits connect with them?  Is this something that makes financial sense to the company?  Perhaps birthday recognitions are low cost, but highly satisfying to your workers.  That leaves money on the table for other retention methods.

4. Stock options or company ownership. When employees are vested with company stock options or a chance to buy into the business you strengthen their commitment to their job.  They are much less likely to leave.

You need to decide if this is a financially viable option for employee retention.  Does it make sense in your business model?

Sarah, you are wise to consider the best uses of your company’s finances to increase worker retention.  With the cost of hiring and retraining, it makes more sense to invest in keeping workers satisfied and happy.  You gain the benefit of experienced workers. And happy employees are more productive.

To understand your worker’s motivations and develop a retention plan designed for success, contact Joel.

Talkback: What has your company done to retain employees?  What has been most successful?

Image courtesy of DeiMosz/ Fotolia.com