Thursday, September 10, 2009


Last week I took three days off. Three full days (or maybe two plus) in which I did not work. I was on vacation.

Maybe some of us have not noticed, but in the past few years, as technology has developed, the lines between work and home are not as sharp and bright as they used to be. If in the past, people worked on constant hours, today the situation is quite different:
Many people hold personal computers belonging to their workplace. They connect after formal working hours from home. Others connect through their personal computers, answering emails and helping on other urgent matters. Even banking and defense-based companies, which cannot reach their materials outside the organization, as to total separation due to security, find themselves answering to phones on various hours (we all have cellular phones nowadays). Those who work in global companies, or with global connections, experience non ending working hours as a routine.

Vacation, therefore, is the only time when the worker absolutely rests from work. There are organizations where weekends can be considered as full rest, but I have seen to many organizations, where people partly work on weekends. Some, belonging to homeland security, others, preparing proposals for towards deadlines. Furthermore, weekends are too short for people to really rest and stop thinking about work. Most of us continue thinking about work every weekend, also if we do not actually work.

It is important therefore, that we, the managers, will see to it that our employees do take vacation. It is important, that we, as well, will take vacations ourselves. Of course, it may seem, that for the organization, it may be more profitable that employees work more, and we pay them for the vacation days.
Intensiveness of work, in this knowledge era, and working also on non working hours, make this need for vacations so essential.

Some tips I can share from my experience as a manager:
First, I never enable my employees to amass their vacation days, not using them within the ongoing working year. Those who do not go on vacations will erode within time. In some rare case, the manager even has to force some employees to take a vacation. Such should be done.

Three days are the minimum for declaring a real vacation.
Furthermore, it is recommended to separate between vacations and arrangement days. Taking off three days, but using half of them for arrangements, is not a good idea, and does not help the employee really freshen up and rest. Enable your employees to be flexible, and from time to time, settle their arrangements on working days, enabling them to work on non-standard hours. Enable the employees work sometimes from home, letting them to get service and repairs from home while working. Try encouraging the employees to take vacations "serving their soul". Of course, not all vacation can serve as so, but try seeing to that at least one vacation every year is for fun and rest.

Above all these, and please forgive me parents for children that do not agree with me, remember that vacation with children can be enjoyable, important and positive, but is not equivalent to personal vacations or vacations with our partners. A parent, taking two weeks vacation on August, is not a person that rested and truly took vacation. He or she just worked somewhere else. Try encouraging your employees, if possible, to take at least one vacation a year without their children. And my dear children; if any of you are reading this please know: I love you so much, despite what I wrote.

In between, treat your employees with equanimity. Once in a few months, enable them to start late in order to have a good breakfast with a friend, or leave early in order to go out and see a daily movie. Not exactly a vacation, rather a mini-mini one.

And again, do not forget looking after yourselves as well.



Mike Petersell said...

You make a good point about vacation being the only time a person can truly refresh. I have three employees and they are all remote workers. They work hard and they have a difficult time separating work from their home life. Being away on vacation is the only time they can truly refresh.

I encourage them not to stockpile vacation days, but they do like to save a few for the end of the year during the holiday season.


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