Workplace stress exacts a toll on your physical and psychological health and presents economic costs for your organization. Hence the importance of taking time off. But in today’s “always-on” work culture, sometimes this is easier said than done.
Due to the increasingly intrusive nature of email, electronic devices, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle, employees of all stripes are finding it harder to unplug and give their brains a rest. Gil Gordon, author of Turn It Off: How to Unplug From the Anytime-Anywhere Office Without Disconnecting Your Career, notes that managers in particular can find it hard to unplug: “Everyone acts as if they’re a world-famous brain surgeon who must be on call 24 hours, and if not, something terrible will happen,” he says, going on to emphasize: “We must be more deliberate and conscious about our choices about technology.” This is especially true when it comes to vacation, when the failure to do so means likely returning to work as tense and exhausted as before you left. Gordon uses the analogy of a rubber band: “If you pull it over and over it will lose its resilience or will break,” he says, explaining that it’s the same for people who never take time off work. “The very thing that people are trying to do by being in the office — proving their value — comes into jeopardy over time.” What’s more, when you and your team members are – or seem — too essential to ever really unplug this indicates a dangerous overreliance on individuals and a lack of collective resilience, which will backfire when you or others leave the team or are promoted to different positions. “On the surface, it may appear that the organization gains if you or your team members do not take time off, but it actually puts the long-term health and stability of both the organization and you as individuals at risk.”
The message you send to your boss when you refuse to disconnect
Perhaps you think it makes you seem committed and professional to never fully disconnect from the office, even on holiday, and perhaps, in a way, it does. But you should also consider a few of the other, unintended signals that the failure to unplug sends your employer:
1. You haven’t managed well.
A good manager should plan so things are under control even when he or she isn’t present. If you are so essential that things fall apart in your absence, this is a problem for the company. “If things go wrong, your company’s leadership won’t think it is because you are indispensable; rather, they will think you are the problem,” writes Michel Theriault in Forbes.
2. You haven’t hired or developed capable talent.
If your constant supervision is necessary for your staff to perform properly, then your team members have been poorly chosen or poorly trained. If you don’t have a staff that can take over while you’re on vacation, your boss won’t thank you for carrying the load but will wonder why it’s necessary for you to do so.
3. You are too controlling. Good leaders empower their teams.
Allowing your team to take charge isn’t a sign of weakness nor does it put your success at risk. If you stand in the way of your teams by refusing to let go while on vacation, your company will see you as an impediment to a well-functioning team.
The message it sends to your teams when you refuse to disconnect
Similarly, if you refuse to hand over the reigns to your staff when you go on vacation, you unintentionally send your team the following negative messages:
1. You don’t trust them.
If you micromanage everything they do, your team isn’t like to feel that you are helping them: they are likely to feel that you don’t have confidence in them.
2. You don’t value their skills.
People want to know that their skill set is valuable and that it is making a difference to the organization. If you don’t give them responsibilities, you send the message that they don’t have much to contribute.
3. You don’t care about their training and advancement.
As a leader, you have a duty to develop your teams, so you should view your own vacations as offering an opportunity for someone else to step up and take on more responsibility, Gordon says. If not, your employees may feel they have little hope of advancement.
4. You don’t value work-life balance.
When you don’t take a real vacation, your employees will feel that you expect the same of them. Remember that you always lead by example.
To read the article in full:
Based on an interview with Gil Gordon, author of Turn It Off : How to Unplug From the Anytime-Anywhere Office Without Disconnecting Your Career (June 2017), “The Professional’s Guide to a Stress-Free Vacation” by Carolyn O’Hara (Harvard Business Review, 14 August 2014), “3 Negative Messages You Send Your Boss When You Don’t Disconnect While on Vacation” by Michel Theriault (Forbes, 4 May 2017) and “The Right Way to Unplug When You’re on Vacation” by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review, 15 july 2014).