Switching off is the key to staying switched on.

In a world where we can do business from anywhere (or nowhere), it can be incredibly difficult to switch off. As a business owner, I find myself constantly concerned about my clients’ ability to reach me whenever and wherever. But, what is the cost of this availability?

The average vacation earned by Americans is 13 days per year, less than any other country, according to Expedia.com, and of those 13 days, there is an average of 3 days unused each year. The same study states that 49.4 Million Americans are vacation depr... This does not take into account the number of people who spend part of their 13 days each year responding to emails, making business calls and even attending online meetings to stay abreast of business.

 

“Americans take even less vacation than the Japanese, the people who gave rise to karoshi—the phenomenon of being worked to death.”

 

In our tough economy, many employees will seek out spots that provide wifi in order for them to stay connected. "It's going to be an interesting summer," says Goodman, a Miami Herald business columnist. "The people who still have a job are really feeling overwhelmed and overworked. They're afraid to take vacations, but at the same time, they need them more than ever."

But without vacation, more employees are burned out and disillusioned. This can be bad on company morale as employees will trace their fear of vacation back to the vacation, whether rational or not. As a result of burnout, employees are more likely to get sick and less likely to commit themselves to their work, often getting their social fix by chatting online with friends and family during work hours.

 

“The always-available executive is dangerous. He subtly undermines the people around him by telegraphing that his team is incapable of running things on their own.”

 

In addition, spending more time with your Blackberry than with your family can have a backlash that reaches further than the doorstep of your own home. Following the recent London riots, much research and speculation was focused on what made the young people riot. Clearly, they were largely unaware of the original premise of the protests, so why did they loot, vandalize and harm other citizens?

 

“According to a survey by YouGov for Channel 4/ITN, "Poor parenting to blame for UK riots", British people think poor parenting, criminal behaviour and gang culture is causing unrest in cities across the UK.”

 

Obviously, I am not suggesting that checking emails on vacation will lead to criminal activity in your children’s future, but taking a break and spending time with your family will always benefit your family.

So, how do you take a vacation without spending all of that time worrying about your balance between work, family and pure relaxation?

1. If you’re concerned about your job security, try taking long weekends several times a year rather than one long vacation. If you are so concerned about missing one day from work, it may be time to reassess your attitude and work style. First, you should trust your coworkers enough to cover for you for one day at lease and second, unless you are the only brain surgeon for miles around, are you really so important that you can’t take one day off?

2. If it’s a possibility, let your family go on vacation without you. Of course, they’ll miss you and would be happier with you joining, but at least your household atmosphere should be a little sunnier.

3. Spend more time with family and friends during the work week and the weekend. Make the most of the time you have off. Schedule any work you may have to do outside of normal hours (preferably in the morning so you don’t spend all day thinking about it) and stick to that schedule, letting yourself enjoy down time. While you’re sitting in a meeting or at your desk and finding your mind wandering (we all do it), allow yourself to take ten minutes off to research or think of things you could do with family or friends from the comfort of your own home or close by. And none of them should include electronics of any kind – no Blackberry, no Xbox, not even the trusty television.

4. Exercise.  Exercise is the best stress reliever. The harder you work out, the more likely your brain is to switch off from work and concentrate on the here and now.

Work/family balance is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate and yet, just as important as it ever was. With longer hours spent at work and the ease of working on the go, it is important to remember that your top priority should always be you. Keep things in perspective by remembering this fact: 60% of pet owners planned on taking their pets on a vacation this year – is it right that Fido can get a break, but you can’t?


Resources:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_21/b4035088.htm
http://www.petrelocation.com/second-annual-summer-pet-travel-survey
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/muhammad-abdul-bari/family-should-b...
http://www.channel4.com/news/poor-parenting-to-blame-for-uk-riots-s...
http://www.npr.org/2011/08/18/139744854/obama-takes-a-vacation-geta...

Views: 215

Comment by Jennifer Norene on August 25, 2011 at 3:06pm
I wholeheartedly agree with this article. Thanks for writing it. I think mini vacations is a good idea but nothing replaces the perspective gained by a good 7 day stretch! Nature, family, new adventure are all great creativity enhancers. Good leaders can be absent and have teams continue to run smoothly. If you are needed every minutre, something is off! Thanks again.
Comment by SkillStorm on August 25, 2011 at 3:08pm
Thanks Jennifer!
Comment by Tim Spagnola on August 25, 2011 at 9:15pm
Yeah - I enjoyed this post also (as well as great use of resources). It is hard working a desk to turn it off. Every new person you meet, connection made, and random conversation can easily slip you into recruiter-mode, but the switch does need to be flipped. For all the reason you mentioned, but also to keep some sense of a fresh perspective on things. On the flip side- our family pet(s) is fish. Not sure they ever really get a vacation. ; )  Thanks for sharing.
Comment by Dezzi Rae Marshall on August 26, 2011 at 12:48pm

Well said! 

I'm lucky to be working for a recruiting firm that puts a premium on life-work balance. 

I specialize in creative staffing and unfortunately for a lot of my candidates and clients who are in the ad agency world, 15-hour workdays with several Saturdays spent at the office working on campaign pitches, is all too common, and sure enough, I get the "I'm burned out! Get me out of here!" call all too often. It's all too familiar to me because I went through the exact same burnout in my late-twenties when I was an ad agency AE.

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