It’s summertime! Vacations are here, and we all know we need them. They are an essential part of maintaining team health and sustaining work-life balance. But, it’s not always easy to slow down, and it can feel difficult to truly detach from work. Studies show that 55% of Americans don’t use all of their paid vacation time. Many workplaces reward working excessively, and employees equate taking their vacation time with falling behind on work or failing the team or their boss. We can all feel guilty about taking a break, no matter how well-deserved!
How do vacations support team health?
The wellbeing of each and every member of your team is essential for the performance of the team and overall team health. Vacations allow people an opportunity to focus on their wellbeing, connect with family, play, travel and rest. Downtime also enhances creativity. Employees should return to work rejuvenated, but no one does that if the work is piling up for two weeks while they are away.
How can leaders model the importance of effective vacation time?
Leaders have an important role to play in modeling and setting the tone for a work culture that supports team health. This includes supporting your team to take their vacation time.
Many leaders make the mistake of thinking that wellbeing is the individual’s responsibility. Afterall, leaders can’t force team members to eat healthily, get enough sleep, see a therapist or go to the gym twice a week! But the truth is that our individual choices are greatly influenced by the people around us and the expectations of our workplace–both those of our team leader’s and that of our team–influenced by the workplace culture.
In a workplace culture that encourages skipping lunch, checking email late into the evening, and not prioritizing vacation and time off, people will become burnt out and leaders will eventually see their highest performers resign. If you as a leader are not taking your earned vacation time, or not “turning off” when you do take vacation, this will signal to your team that a true break is not encouraged or possible.
How do you actually take a real vacation that doesn’t just lead to a stressful (and impossible) workload on your return?
This is a tough one. But there are important ways your team can help – if you let them! Involving your team takes thoughtful planning, trust in the team and clarifying and communicating expectations, but this will help you enjoy your vacation, not panic about the workload upon your return, and ultimately improve team health.
1. Pass Off Projects
Before taking off, pass off projects and deliverables to others on your team, making it clear who is responsible for what. Make sure there are no loose ends and team members have the info they need to respond to requests appropriately. Trust your team members, and introduce them to any external stakeholders or clients, making it clear that they will move this project forward in your absence.
2. Schedule Follow-up Meetings
It’s also a good idea to schedule follow-up meetings with team members for after your return to get updated on project status. This will give you peace of mind that you’ll be up to speed in no time when you are back at work.
3. Not Everything is Urgent
Let go of the idea that everything is urgent. If something needs your sign off or input, ask your colleagues to take it as far as they can and set up a meeting to discuss when you return.
4. Block off Catch-up Time
Block time off in your calendar when you return for catch-up time. This will allow you to focus on your inbox without getting overwhelmed with new meetings and tasks.
How can you support yourself and your team to disconnect while on vacation?
You booked that vacation, good for you! Here are a few tips to help you rock your vacation time and still have that glow a week after you return.
1. Set up Out-of-Office Auto-Reply
Set up a clear and friendly out-of-office auto-reply for your email. Your message should be short and friendly and state clearly who to contact in your absence with anything that can’t wait until your return. Doing so will give you peace of mind that any emails flowing into your inbox can either wait until you get back, or will be directed to someone else on your team.
2. Turn off Notifications
Change your computer/phone setting. While you are away, you are not expected to check messages and emails; you are taking a break! Make sure you have turned off any email or other notifications. If you desperately need to check messages (it happens), try not to send messages to the team or anyone who doesn’t absolutely need to see it. Again, it sets the wrong tone.
3. Consider Holding off on Messages that are Not Important
When your colleagues or your boss are on vacation, consider holding off on any messages or emails to them that are not urgent. If they must be on an email thread, consider bcc-ing them so that they can clearly see that they are not meant to respond, but just kept in the loop for when they return. Where possible and appropriate, keep them off email and message threads so they have less in their inbox when they return.
It’s easy to say “take vacation, we think this is important,” but it’s the nuts and bolts of how you will support this on your team that really matters. Co-creating a Team Charter that identifies and spells out team values, expectations and how you will work together — including to prioritize meaningful vacations — is key to how you support team health.
If you need help with a Team Charter or want to learn more about how to prioritize and support team health, book a discovery call today with Neolé today!