By Michael Gunther

Time away from the office is a necessary and often critical factor in the success of leaders as well as team members. Yet, I often find many organizations have created a culture that vacation or time off is frowned upon or even discouraged. In addition, I have recently seen employees at firms afraid to take time off because they felt no one could do their role or that someone might try and take over their functions.  This is truly an unfortunate dilemma facing both employees and employers.  The reality is productivity and efficiency actually spiral downward without sufficient breaks and time away from the office. More hours worked doesn’t always equate to greater output.

At Collaboration, we recently implemented a vacation policy similar to progressive organizations such as Zappos, where we have an open time off policy. Employees are able to take as much time off as they like as long as they are achieving their outcomes. In addition, every employee has to take at least two – one week breaks throughout the year. Many outsiders have questioned how this is working out. Aren’t people abusing the system? It may be too early to tell, but the initial results have been positive.

Through this outcome focused vacation policy, we have begun to see Vacation = Return to Innovation (V-RTI). Our team has had flexibility in their schedules but, as adults, they have also managed their outcomes and performance metrics to ensure they are completing their roles effectively. We have noticed an increase in the level of innovation and ideas once they return from their time off. The break is providing them an opportunity to step away from their daily routines, assessing things from a different point of view and providing them unfiltered thinking time. They have had an elevated sense of achieving their goals as they know that this privilege, of managing their own time off, is based on the quality of goals being achieved and not the quantity of hours worked.

I have seen many organizations struggle with the idea of implementing this type of time off program. I realize many organizations may not be able to employ this type of program based on their service or production needs, but many other firms could employ a similar program. My experience is that if the leaders feel like they can’t time off, their employees feel the same way. My belief is it has to start at the top. Leaders need to understand that lack of time away from the office over time, leads to burnout, turnover and lower performance. Some leaders feel like they can’t get away because things will fall apart without them. Well, this is actually a different issue called ‘poor management’ or ‘lack of effective time management.’ If as a leader, you or anyone on your team believes they can’t take time off because they feel things will crumble without them, there is a larger systemic issue happening within your organization.

Bottom Line

High performing teams and leaders understand the concept of work smarter, not harder. They similarly believe time off is a powerful tool to encourage new ideas as well as maintaining a refreshed and re-energized workforce. When was the last time you took time off? Have you created a culture that is prioritized by work or motivated and empowered by work-life balance? You may be missing out on amazing ideas for your business because vacation = return to innovation.

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