7 Wasted Days… | HR Fishbowl


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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