It’s vacation time! You’re relaxing with family or friends and your phone rings. It’s from your office and it’s headed ‘Urgent’ (in caps, with lots of exclamation marks). It’s designed to make sure you don’t ignore it. Do you read it or do you resist? After all, you’re supposed to be having time out. That’s probably going to stop as soon as you discover what’s going on. If you don’t read it, then what might be happening will probably be worrying while you try to enjoy your free time.
It used to be that being on vacation meant getting away from it all. With smartphones and other mobile devices, that’s rarely possible now. The boundaries between work hours and after-hours are no longer clear-cut. Smartphones, tablets and laptops are great aids to mobile working, in all sorts of ways, including improved productivity, but this is the downside. You can’t get away from work when you want or need to escape it.
95% of senior business figures recognize the importance of staff having time off, so that they are rested and refreshed. Mobile technology is a clear impediment to achieving this goal. Business owners find it particularly difficult, because the success of their company is their responsibility, and keeping on top of everything that’s happening is part of the job description. It’s not easy to let go.
A few years ago, Travel Effect surveyed senior business leaders and established that, even when supposedly resting, ‘almost half (46%) continue to answer email, and nearly a third (29 percent) keep making work calls (meaning their families aren’t getting much of them during vacation either!). All in all, only 37 percent of senior leaders say they unplug completely from work on vacation’.
Everyone loves being on vacation, right? Yet Americans are especially bad at taking them. Many employees don’t use their vacation time at all. A study by the US Travel Association estimated that 40% of Americans ended the year with unused paid vacation days. Here’s what the Huffington Post had to say about it:
‘The four reasons cited the most are the dread of returning from a vacation to piles of work (40 percent), the belief that no one will be able to step in and do their job for them while they’re gone (35 percent), not being able to afford it (33 percent), and the fear of being seen as replaceable (22 percent).’
This is all the more baffling when you consider that Americans get very little paid vacation time – typically, about a week. Compare this to countries like Germany and Australia, where it’s up to seven weeks. The Travel Effect research highlighted that American employers’ attitudes to this are problematic: ‘67 percent of employees say their company is either silent about taking vacation, sends mixed signals about it, or even actively discourages it’.
A vacation should be about disconnecting from the office, in order to rest, recharge their batteries and escape the relentless stress that many jobs entail. Partial disconnection from work doesn’t achieve this. Full disengagement is what allows people to refocus, re-energize and get back to work feeling fresh and motivated.
Why is staff stress bad for business? The World Health Organization estimated that the financial consequences for US businesses are around $300 billion dollars annually. Add in sleep deprivation, and that’s another $63 billion. It makes economic sense to take a real break from work and ditch the smartphone for the duration.
Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, next time you have vacation time, make the most of the opportunity to escape the stress. You’re meant to get it away from it all when you’re on holiday. The team who are still in the office should be trained to manage problems if they arise in your absence, and the company won’t fall apart without you. So – take that vacation. Where will you go? Tell us in the comments!
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