If you haven’t already – GO. And tell your people to go.
Last month, we wrote that we were both about to take a two-week vacation and be completely offline to restore ourselves, connect to what is important and get inspired by new things. And we shared the daunting stress and fear that came with that decision: Can we really go offline for two weeks? Will we miss out on something big? Will some critical project piece fall through the cracks? Will our clients be OK???
Well, we are back and have some thoughts from the other side.
Can we really go offline for two weeks?
The answer is yes. Not only can we but it’s necessary for our personal and mental health, necessary for our families to truly be present with each other, and so important to model that for others in our orbit.
Will we miss out on something big?
Maybe, and that’s OK. If it’s FOMO holding you back from vacation, we all must get over it. In this fast passed world, we are always missing out on things! There isn’t enough time or capacity to do it all and that doesn’t end when the OOO message gets turned on in our inbox.
Will some critical project piece fall through the cracks?
Not if planned for in advance. This was one of our biggest learnings which we will talk more about later, but advance planning really does set the stage for avoiding crises.
Will our clients be OK???
Not only YES, but they will benefit from our new mindsets and learnings and relaxed frame of minds when we are back. We have more to share with them about how to give their employees the mental health breaks they need.
Turns out, we weren’t alone in the need and desire to take time off. As Fortune recently reported due to high levels of burnout, LinkedIn, Medium and many other companies gave their employees the week of July 4-8 completely off – in addition to regular PTO. In fact, one of our own clients gave their teams the July 4th week as well, and we’ve seen first-hand their employees positive reactions to that announcement and the even more positive attitudes that returned en masse from vacation.
You can’t open a business journal without reading about the high levels of stress and burnout. The need to take time away from work to rest and recharge is real. Here are more tips on how to do it.
We were clear on the outcomes that we wanted to create. We were clear about what we wanted from our time away – and it wasn’t work-related. Our most important outcome was meaningful connection with the people we were with during our vacations, and that was the beacon that guided our path. And thank goodness we had that beacon – because it was a cluster-F%#! right up to literally the hour before we hit the road! The HumanityWorks online learning platform we are launching in August was going to be beta-tested while we were away – and THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. So, instead of ruining the first few days of our precious two weeks forcing it, we put the full brakes on and said STOP. Let the project stop where it was, the world won‘t end, and we will simply pick up the pieces when we’re back. We only had the guts to do that because of our beacon – our intention to have meaningful connection – was more powerful than the stress of our self-imposed deadline. (A good question to ask: when is a deadline self-imposed and “real” and when is it not?)
We know we are a small company and because of that, it may be easier for us. But big companies are creating these breaks as well, allowing everyone to put on the brakes, set things down and step away.
The key is to set up structure ahead of time so that people can truly step away. Here are 5 steps to help that happen:
1. Determine at the front of the year when time should be scheduled away for everyone.
Sometimes whole companies can’t shut off, like customer service, but inside those functions, identify the windows when they can take time. This might mean different departments take different times off so things can keep running company wide.
2. Allow whole departments to take the same time periods off.
This lessens the FOMO of being away, and the feelings of guilt and even shame for taking the time people so desperately need. It also means that the email box isn’t bursting with urgent items the moment employees step back in. It allows for a natural pause in the urgency and pace of business, allow for the noise to stop. Otherwise, too many of us are thinking “it’s just not worth going away when I have to come back to all this backed up work!”
3. If a whole department break isn’t possible, then create a system that provides full coverage for individual seats.
Create a system that allows others to completely take over for someone, to fill their seat, so the vacationing person doesn’t feel overwhelmed when coming back (and worse, less likely to go in the first place). Meaningful connection allows this to happen, so ensure connections and relationships are supportive and trusting.
4. Define emergencies.
We know things come up that just might rise to the level of needing to interrupt someone’s vacation. But what are these, truly? We suggest defining emergencies as: evidence of harm to self or others and sickness. Think deeply about what else is truly important enough to ruin a break – and this can’t be work/bottom line related.
5. It starts at the top and leaders need to show the way.
Leaders must model the importance of taking time away by taking time away themselves. And be loud and proud about it! The whole company should know when the boss is leaving and let others share in your excitement, perhaps by telling them where you are going and what you hope to gain while away. Our client CEO that gave their company the week of July 4-8 off this month posted on LinkedIn: “I’m looking forward to spending time with family, catching up on escapist novels, and hiking in gorgeous mountains. See you on the other side.” What a fabulous way to not only show her humanity and need for a break, but to let others know ‘it’s ok for you to go too.’
So, if you haven’t already – GO. And tell your people to go. Set up the systems that truly allow them to go. You, your people, and your company will all be healthier and happier if you do.
Humanity works because of you!
Kate and Debbie