As I am sure you know there is lots of research that demonstrates the value of sunshine, being outdoors and basically enjoying the summer months. There is no doubt with the vast majority of people I talk to their spirits are lifted with the lighter mornings and longer days. Just the simple option to sit outside after a day at work makes it feel like you aren’t working 24/7 and there is more to life. It’s a more positive time of year for many.
However, I have also noticed with a number of leaders I have mentored they appear to be “holding on” for their planned summer break. They have placed a significant amount of importance on “getting away for a bit”, or “spending quality time with family” or “not having to do the commute”. They talk about their vacation/holiday as if it is a magical period that once they leave work and embark on it somehow that short period of time will not only replenish their energy levels and allow for more positive relationships but it will rather miraculously make everything at work be better when they return.
In addition, there is a third category in an even more difficult place. These people work even more ridiculously long hours on the run up to their holiday (business standards organisation Investors in People report 51% of people work extra hours before their holiday), they explain why they absolutely have to take a couple of critical calls when away and why their mobile phone will be used to check their emails so they can stay “on top of everything”. They are completely convinced all they need is a week (or 2 if their family insists) away physically but need to stay connected “a little”. If asked what happened last year, many will repeat the same story – explaining it’s just the way it has to be “working at this level” or “working here”. To be honest I can hear myself saying very similar statements in the past and finding it difficult to break away. I had amazing people around me so there was no real need to stay connected and it took my a few years to bring in the change to take a real break. What tipped the balance was being hypocritical when almost insisting others forgot about work while on holiday when I didn’t – it became a credibility issue and appeared as a lack of trust in my teams so I wasn’t helping myself or others.
This is not just a seniority or UK issue but I can comment more on the UK as I’ve seen the statistics and according to a YouGov/Croner poll report, only one in three UK employees take their full holiday entitlement. Many people are reluctant to take annual leave because of the challenging economic climate, feeling compelled to work longer hours and take less days off. Add to that heavier workloads (because employee levels are kept lower) and tighter deadlines and the pressure to perform to the highest standards builds – even if this means not taking necessary breaks from work.
Let’s be clear – everybody needs a break to relax and unwind. The best thing you can do for yourself, researchers suggest, is look at time off from work as a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle.
Sounds logical – should be easy but still so many people struggle to get the balance right and to leave work alone for a short period of time. If you can’t convince yourself that your health is the most important thing, or your friends and family need time with you or that you’ll actually be less impactful by working more, then connect with me. I will happily book a session with you to talk about your challenges this summer (or any holiday period) and how it is possible to overcome any obstacles to taking time off even it means planning now for your next holiday!