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.

Image courtesy of baluchis / fotolia.com

Downsizing Hurts Productivity: A Case Study of the Hampton Fire Department

The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.

~ Thomas J. Peters ~

Although many companies lay off employees to cut costs and increase productivity, the result is often the opposite. In most cases, downsizing hurts productivity. A case study that was done on the fire department in Hampton, New Hampshire provides some insight into why this is true.

As part of the study, fire safety personnel were surveyed about their experiences with layoffs. Here are some of the results:

  • The number of respondents who were very satisfied with their jobs was 72% before the layoffs and 11% after.
  • The number who said they were not very satisfied was 3% before and 44% after.
  • 47% of the employees who remained after the layoffs considered looking for work at another organization.
  • Prior to the layoffs, 97% would have recommended their workplace to others. This dropped to 39% after the layoffs.
  • 72% believed that downsizing had hurt productivity.
  • 81% said that the layoffs had caused a drop in employee morale.

Of course, a single case study doesn’t prove that downsizing hurts productivity, but this is not an isolated occurrence. In 1996, the American Management Association conducted a study on companies that had downsized. They discovered that only about one-third of them had increased their productivity after downsizing.

Another study also found that downsizing hurts productivity. Some of the factors cited as reasons for the loss of productivity included the voluntary resignation of survivors, failure of those left behind to keep up the increased workload, resistance to change, and inexperience on the part of new employees who were hired to replace those who resigned.

If you are forced to cut labor costs, you should expect that there will be negative repercussions in the form of reduced productivity and morale, lowered employee trust in management, and valued employees who were not laid off leaving to work elsewhere. Although you can’t completely avoid these issues, there are ways you can reduce their impact.

7 Ways to Avoid a Loss of Productivity after Downsizing
  1. Avoid layoffs if possible.
    Make sure your employees know that layoffs are a last resort that you will only consider when there are no other options.
  2. Ask for cost-saving ideas from your employees.
    They may be able to help you come up with a way to cut costs without cutting their jobs.
  3. Tell the whole truth.
    Be truthful with your employees, and don’t withhold information. Let them know what is going on.
  4. Treat them as you’d like to be treated.
    Think about how you would feel if you were the one whose job was being cut. Try to treat your employees the way you would want to be treated.
  5. Keep it positive.
    There are still good things going on at work. Help your employees focus on their successes.
  6. Think ahead.
    Planning long-term projects demonstrates to your employees that you believe the future of the company is secure. Get them excited about being a part of that future.
  7. Share the load.
    Your employees are going to be overloaded with work due to a shortage of staff and resources. Offer to help when possible and work with them to determine priorities so that they are focusing on the tasks that are most important.

Maintaining employee morale in the face of layoffs is not an easy task, but it is something every manager should strive for. By keeping employees motivated and productive during downsizing, you can increase your company’s chances of making a full recovery to its former strength.

Garfinkle Outplacement Services offers a 9-step employee outplacment process. Consider providing outplacement for workers to help your employees survive—and thrive—as they transition to new employment opportunities.