No, this post is not about giving two weeks notice, rather this blog post is about taking two weeks of vacation. I recently returned to work after taking the equivalent of two weeks (the total includes weekends and days off for Christmas/New Year) and I will admit it was one of the best vacations I have had in a long time.
Articles have been written about individuals not taking their allotted paid time off – Hotwire released a survey that showed employees had over 9 days of paid vacation still to use when the calendar turned to 2013. While some of these days may be saved for an early January trip, most of us will continue to accrue vacation time without using it.
So what? Not taking vacation shows you are a dedicated employee. Right? John de Graff wrote a television documentary in 1994 entitled “Running Out of Time” where he highlights the health risks of not taking time to recharge ourselves. I would venture that his findings are more true today with the advent of devices such as smartphones, tablets/laptops, email, web conferencing, etc. that allow us stay connected when away from the office. Derek Thompson, a writer for the Atlantic, suggests maybe it is more of a national problem as the US is only ‘advanced economy’ country that does not have a national vacation policy.
Not taking vacation has been shown to have a negative effect on your emotional and physical well-being. While this is not news to anyone who has gone 6 months without a day off, the research validates what you are experiencing. Heart attacks, stress, depression, poor job performance – directly linked to burnout from work.
Why Two Weeks? I usually take a day or two (ie: long weekend concept) where my Friday vacation day ends up being answering emails from 8-10am and a conference call from 11-noon. Bookend this with 2-3 hours on Sunday night focused on work and my relaxing long weekend is anything but that. A mentor of mine stressed how he always takes a two-week vacation during the summer because he found it took him 3-4 days to unwind, he enjoyed the next week with minimal interruptions, and then began to ramp back up on the last day or two of his break. The key piece is he was gone long enough to wrap up any loose ends that may have existed when he left and he was gone long enough that he allowed himself some downtime before he began to ramp up.
I took the advice and tried it out this year, I am a believer. My first day of vacation still had the typical conference call and loose ends to tie up, but the duration of the vacation was key. I was able to unplug. The timing was also opportune, the end of the year holidays is a slow time in the recruiting world and thus there were few “emergencies” as many of my counterparts were also away from their offices. This helped to foster a culture of down time.
Another advantage of taking a longer vacation is that it forces others at your company to handle issues that arise. If I know my boss will be back in a day, I may feel comfortable pushing some items off until he returns from his vacation. If I know he will not be back for several days and the issue needs to be addressed, I will take care of it and provide an update of the outcome when he returns. Another perk can be the filtering of “emergencies”. I have noticed that several items that seemed urgent on Monday/Tuesday of my vacation (based on the amount of email chatter pertaining to the topic) were discovered to be not important by my return to the office.
Two weeks may not be possible for everyone – but it is possible for more of us than we would like to admit. If you are feeling drained after your vacations, consider stockpiling some days and taking a longer break that just the “long weekend” respite. You may find yourself rested after a vacation, and isn’t that a novel concept?