7 Wasted Days…

old_steamer_trunk

I was one of those kids parents tried to get rid of at every opportunity so being sent off to Maine or Michigan for month-long sessions of summer camp was an annual occurrence. I usually kicked and screamed – not wanting to leave my friends and their sure-to-be-boring-as-hell plans. But once I actually completed the endless trek and finally settled into the cabin with my steamer trunk (seriously), I usually found myself in a little slice of heaven.  From my Mom’s perspective, my summer camp experiences were transformational; I would leave one person and return another; it became this therapeutic escape from the everyday trials of growing up; I’d finally let down my guard, lighten-up, and exhale (I was a tightly-wound kid). In fact, I had such an amazing experience one summer that I actually based my college admissions essay on it. While the outdoors, the friendships, and the fun were all nice, it was really the length of leave that made the biggest impact. A month is just about the right time to really get a sound perspective on your life. A week, on the other hand, is not…

When’s the last time you took 2 or more consecutive weeks of vacation? Do the math: you spend two days travelling, you need a day to acclimate to your new surroundings and then another to gear up to return home. That leaves you like 3 days to really chill. What the hell can you do that’s good for body and soul in three days? Very little, that’s what. Ever hear some one say, “I need a vacation from my vacation?” Seriously! Do you even allow your employees to take more than a week at a time? Do you offer a sabbatical program? Nearly a quarter of the companies listed on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For actually offer paid sabbaticals. I think that’s smart. And if you work for one of those companies and don’t take advantage of it, you’re dumb. There are lots of best practices out there for these extended leave programs (try LifeMeetsWork, Evan Charmichael, SHRM, Workforce Management, YourSabbatical.com). Hell, I’ll even send you one I’ve used if you want it. If you can’t have a formal program, at least encourage people to get away in bigger chunks. Require they take two-week vacations every other year or something. Consider “decompression” as important a competency as anything you’re trying to develop in your employees. Promote it. Hold them accountable to it. And make sure your managers are going out of their way to grant their employees permission to do it. Otherwise, you might as well take away your vacation program and just pay your people more. What a freakin’ waste.

Photo Credit: Irv’s Luggage

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6 Responses to 7 Wasted Days…
  1. Mark
    July 19, 2010 | 2:08 pm

    I like this post and had a similar thought back in January when I asked my VP for two weeks this summer. It’s the first time I will be taking more than a week for vacation. My family and I are very excited and no one is giving me grief for taking two weeks. That’s when I realized that the culture of where I work is really cool.

  2. John Jorgensen
    July 19, 2010 | 3:01 pm

    Great idea Charlie, but I wonder how many managers are brave enough to try it. I use every second of vacation as possible and ask for more, knowing that a) I give my all and more other times of the year and b) it will help me reenergize and give my employer even more productivity in the job.

    I just have a hard time imagining you as a tightly wound kid.

  3. Charlie
    July 20, 2010 | 9:10 am

    @Mark – i’m so glad you have a supportive employer. more importantly, i’m gladded you piped up and asked for two weeks. i hope you’ll come home feeling truly rejuvenated!

    @John – we need more “brave” managers. in fact, if you’re too much of a wuss to ask, then you shouldn’t be a manager. yes, luckily i’ve worked most of the tightness out by now.

  4. Mark Stelzner
    July 20, 2010 | 9:36 am

    Great post Charlie and reminds me of my own childhood.

    One item I question is whether employers really want decompression. My point is that once you hit the two week mark you begin to question/reexamine many things in your life – health, wealth, career, relationships, etc. Would love to see research that showed sabbaticals resulted in increased retention. My anecdotal evidence points to the exact opposite – most who I know decided to leave their jobs/firms as soon as possible post-sabbatical.

    It’s a great (and interesting) topic so thanks for the post.
    Mark Stelzner´s last blog ..Winning The War On TalentMy ComLuv Profile

  5. Charlie
    July 21, 2010 | 6:55 am

    @stelzner – i’m sure we both could find research that points to both the benefits and risks of sabbaticals to both employers and employees. i guess i would argue that the period of “reexamination” is ultimately beneficial for both parties. isn’t the end game about connecting employees and employers who are a good fit for one another? if said reexamination calls that fit into question, we all need to be comfortable with that. i want employees who actually want to be there working for me. the cost of having employees around who don’t want to be there is much higher than replacing them when they leave. thx for the comment…and challenge.

  6. Karen Siwak
    July 23, 2010 | 1:23 pm

    Our family just took its first 2-weeks-in-a-row vacation since our twelve year old was a baby. And you are right, the extra week made a significant difference. As a family, we benefited from a collective sense of relaxation and connectedness that isn’t possible when two of seven vacation days are spent in mad-dash-get-to-where-you-are-going travel. On a personal level, the extra days gave me the space I needed to breath and contemplate how I want to invest the most important asset I have to offer my business – my time.
    Karen Siwak´s last blog ..What Is Resume Strategy AnywayMy ComLuv Profile

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