Unleashing the full capacity of your people

Holiday Breaks – Take Them – Make Your Team Take Them

mall during holidays

It continues to astound us that people skip vacations to work longer. We understand dedication, and a desire to communicate how engaged and loyal we are. But leaving earned vacation days on the table is measurably bad for productivity and promotional prospects. Great leaders insist that their team members take all the vacation due them each year, because the rested and “reset” mind is a more creative, productive mind.

Evidence that this leadership advice is sound is readily available. We received a “daily management tip” from Harvard Business Review this week that echoed our advice, and gave us the data you need to justify telling your employees to disconnect from work more often!

Let’s skip to the end of the article and get right to the point:

“… the conclusion of this article and all of our research isn’t complicated: Go on vacation. If you take all your vacation days and plan ahead for trips, you will increase your happiness, success rate, and likelihood of promotion, and you’ll lower your stress level to boot.”

You need to emphasize this, because the coming Holidays always inject some tension between end-of-year tasks and the desire to relax a bit and enjoy the season. You can take the lead in setting “time off” expectations within your areas of responsibility and influence to emphasize the need to strike the healthiest balance between work and rest.

Here are just a few suggestions that could apply to your team, adjusted as needed to fit your organization’s policies and business constraints.

  • Give strong signals that time off for everyone is a priority.
  • Shoo all your employees out of the office at noon the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Follow them out the door.

If you have staff who must work the Friday after Thanksgiving, limit the team working to a skeleton crew:

  • Give them a budget to make lunch that day some kind of group activity. Work with the team to decide what that reward could be.
  • Let some arrive late, and others leave early.
  • Give this day back to them later in December, as an extra day off (or two half-days).

I realize some work environments don’t allow as much flexibility as others. I am just trying to jog your creative thinking about how to inject “time off” into certain work days. (And I exclude retail workers from this bit of advice because, you know, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday Season sales.)

  • Shoo all your employees out of the office by 3 pm every Friday during the holiday season. If you need coverage until five, set up a schedule for skeleton coverage for the last few hours each Friday, with that obligation rotated so everyone must do it just once.
  • Shoo everyone out of the office on Christmas and New Years Eve by noon if that is not already company policy, and follow them out the door.
  • If coverage is required, take volunteers and give them a reward for staying until closing time. The team should decide what kind of reward (a floating half-day credit, arrive late that day, or other non-financial perk.)

The point is, the Holiday season is a great time to validate the idea that time off is a good thing, and that people should not feel guilty about taking it! Set the standard as Take Time Off = Good, Skip Time Off = Bad.

Then, come 2017, focus on the time each employee takes off. Make it a point to discuss when (not if) they plan to take their breaks, and keep bringing it up until you get their commitment!

How have you had success getting team members to take breaks, rejuvenate their mind and mindsets, and raise their contribution rate thereby?

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