A vast majority of us nowadays are armed with smartphones, tablets and laptops. While this level of mobility and access to information has its benefits, it comes with a price as well. Most of us carry our work with us everywhere we go, rarely “signing off” and just enjoying some downtime.
How often have you as a workplace manager answered an email at ten o’clock in the evening because you did not want your customer or boss to have to wait? Between office time and mobile work, employees are connected 24/7, rarely putting in less than 45 hours per week. Even when we take a day off, most Americans find themselves checking in from time to time throughout the day, putting out fires when needed.
While it is important for your facilities management career to be a hard worker, studies show that those who work consistently with no downtime are more stressed, which curtails productivity. Stress also leads to an elevated risk of heart attacks, irritability, higher alcohol and food consumption and a lowered immune system. In other countries, vacation time is considered a valued part of everyday life, helping to maintain a balance between family life, health and productivity. These countries recognize the importance of this balance and have mandated anywhere from 10 to 20 vacation days per year. In America, many companies have taken advantage of the lack of vacation requirements, offering their employees little to no vacation time. Furthermore, those workplace managers who do receive vacation (paid or not) rarely take all of their allotted time, riddled with guilt and/or fear of the stack of work that will be waiting for them upon their return.
A recent study by Glassdoor uncovered some very enlightening facts on the subject of vacation. “Among employees who receive vacation and/or paid time off, 85 percent report taking at least some time off in the past 12 months while 15 percent report taking no vacation/paid time off.” Furthermore, “one in 10 employees (11 percent) who took vacation time in the past 12 months report using paid time off to interview for another job. Among those 18-34 years old, one in five (20 percent) say they’ve used vacation time to interview for another job.”
Many organizations are now recognizing the financial drain over-worked employees present to the bottom-line. From higher health care costs and absenteeism to high employee turnover, lower productivity and on-the-job errors, facilities are paying the price. Enlightened employers are not only providing additional vacation time, but are also encouraging their workers to take it. Some companies, such as Netflix, are actually implementing a “limitless vacation” policy in which employees can take as much time off as needed, as long as their work is done. Some, such as FullContact, are even going so far as to PAY their employees to take a vacation! The one stipulation—they must entirely disconnect from work while they are away.
“We don't track hours worked per day or per week, so why are we tracking days of vacation per year? We realized: We should focus on what people get done, not on how many days worked. Just as we don't have a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday policy, we don't need a vacation policy.... There is also no clothing policy at Netflix, but no one comes to work naked. Lesson: You don't need policies for everything.” -Netflix
We are, however, a highly competitive culture and implementing a limitless vacation policy can often be discouraging to employees. Workers who take time off worry they are being judged for their time away, possibly losing the chance at that promotion they are seeking. Whether employees are offered unlimited time off or a set amount, this fear often overwhelms them into simply working through the year.
Set Your Team Up Before You Go
Every work situation is unique. Two individuals may do the exact same job yet have completely different experiences. One may be part of a huge corporation, while the other’s role may be in a small, privately owned company. Therefore, there is no correct answer as to how much vacation time is enough (or too much). The two stipulations are that you must take time for yourself and you must get your work done.
No one wants to come back from vacation with multiple fires needing to be put out. While it is inevitable that we will leave some tasks behind for our co-workers to handle, we must be careful not to pile more work onto our already overwhelmed teammates. The key to ensuring you have a restful vacation is planning ahead of time. Once you know you will be taking time off, start preparing several weeks in advance. Identify any potential issues that could arise while you are gone and tackle it head-on before anything can happen. Notify your FM team and clients of when you will be out and see if there is anything they need before you go as well as alerting them of any potential situations that may arise, which you cannot handle currently. This shows that you not only value your clients, but yourself as well. And when you come back refreshed and ready to tackle your projects, all that preparation will have been worth it.
Whether yours is an organization that offers unlimited paid vacation, or offers none at all, it is critical to your health and career, to take time off for yourself. Vacations were designed to serve as a break from the everyday work world, so the employee would return refreshed in both mind and body. You may decide not to travel, but you can still enjoy your time off. A staycation is perfectly acceptable; just be sure to disconnect entirely and enjoy yourself.