Don’t work on vacation. Just don’t.
As a former CEO, I am here today to give you permission to not only take your vacation, but remind you to not to work during your trip.
Not only do I want you to use your entire vacation allotment, but I want you to actually enjoy it.
Too often, during my career as an employer did I have employees who wanted to be a hero…they wanted to look as if they did not need to take their vacation.
So they would do the most logical thing possible. They wouldn’t take any.
Ok, well that isn’t entirely true. These employees would take some, but it would be so minimal compared to their full PTO allotment.
As a boss, I wanted all of my employees to take as much time off as they were allotted.
We had a standard of 4 weeks of vacation, plus we also had all of the standard American holidays, which amounted to an extra 10 days.
So you are staring 6 weeks of vacation in the face, but then you refuse to take any of it? It isn’t healthy.
Worse, the employees who did this, were oftentimes not the most productive employees.
Time off will boost your productivity, creativity, and mental health!
Look, I am not going to claim that vacations are an end all, be all. They aren’t a solution to the world’s problems.
But they may be a solution to your problems.
For me personally, even running companies I loved and working 40 hours or less, I was still emotionally and mentally exhausted from time to time.
I realized fairly early on how highly I value vacations. I might be really stuck in a rut mentally pre-vacation….But then post-vacation, I come back refreshed and ready to kick down some doors again.
And that is just the work benefits. The personal benefits of vacation, spending more time with your significant other, or family, or experiencing new things. That is priceless.
Vacation works. Mental breaks work. Refusing to take time off – that doesn’t work.
Calendar.com goes on to to list of reasons why vacation is so important:
- “Boosts creativity”
- “Traveling gives you a new perspective”
- “You get to process ideas”
- “Nature helps you focus”
- “Reduces stress”
I couldn’t agree more. And this is why I have always championed taking as much vacation as possible.
I prefer to work smarter, not harder in all facets of life.
Can you guess what happened to the employees who refused to take really any vacation at all during the year?
They burned out.
This happened in a couple of different ways.
First, it would happen where they would work themselves to the ground to the point that it was so obvious they weren’t operating at peak levels, or anywhere close.
Whenever this happened, as a boss, the only thing you can do is literally force your employee to take a vacation. “Take next week off. In fact, please don’t come back until you are well rested and feeling yourself.”
The second way this happened was that they would leave. Yep, they would work themselves to the ground so much that they could not face continuing at their current job. They became unhappy, they resented their job, and they resented the company.
This was probably the worst way to see a good employee leave. Did I as a boss fail to get across the point that your employment is not dependent on the amount of days that you work?
Certainly I have to own that perhaps somewhere in the company there was a breakdown between our policies, my personal example I tried to set, and the tone actually set by others. So yeah, some of this was my fault.
But I think a most of the issue with employees who won’t take vacation is due to the fact that society is programmed wrong.
Societal programming is still a work in progress
Let’s face it. As far as we have come in so many things, our programming is still very messed up in many ways. But it is definitely way off compared to our counterparts in the rest of the world.
In the United States meanwhile, we have zero mandated days off.
Perhaps, this is part of America’s success? We are a pull up your sleeves, work yourself into the ground, capitalism at all costs, entrepreneurial society.
This is the American way – and it is what has helped turned America into a superpower.
But this hustle culture mentality cannot sustain. And we don’t need to.
You can be more productive today, working less, being more efficient during the hours you do work. You simply need to get better at managing your time.
What about Unlimited PTO?
In my limited experience with Unlimited PTO, it doesn’t do enough to solve the problem.
Early in my career, I worked for a startup that offered it. So I took full advantage taking 4 weeks off each year.
Yet, I would get side mouthed comments from managers, and I began to suspect that it was a hack so that the company could ride you as hard as possible.
It was probably not exactly true, but it sure felt that way at the time.
I would rather have you tell me, “you have 2 weeks off, and these 5 Holidays” than “you can take as much time as you want.”
It sets a clearer tone from the top if you declare your exact number PTO days. Then you don’t have to worry about anything getting lost in translation.
And don’t work during your vacation
Lastly, I want to tell you not to work on vacation.
Don’t be a hero.
Believe me, I have been there. As an entrepreneur in the early days, I had to deal with various fires here and there. I did have to work on a vacation on few occasions. Thankfully most of these were shorter trips, or family events.
But just don’t do it.
If you don’t feel comfortable not checking in, then you haven’t adequately prepared for your trip. Or you aren’t properly delegating to your employees.
When taking a longer trip, I always recommend planning in advance.
Schedule your vacations in advance
How is it possible to take 4 weeks of vacation a year as CEO?
Once you have delegated it is quite simple. So simple, that anyone, at any level can do it:
- Schedule them at least a month in advance.
- Put them on a shared calendar.
- Tell everyone very clearly that you will be out of town from x date to y date.
- Then remind your team as much as possible, two weeks before, one week before, etc.
Then head off on your vacation, put your phone on airplane mode and enjoy.
Now, go and use your PTO like a boss
Remember, vacation is your time to rejuvenate and avoid burnout.
You’ll also come back being a more productive employee.
You may feel peer pressure to not use your PTO, or to work during your vacation.
I urge you to avoid both. The best way to fight the peer pressure is to set firm boundaries, start dropping hints about your vacation weeks in advance, and ensure that everyone knows that you won’t be available.
Then go and have a great time. Happy summer everyone!