Taking time for vacation is a teamwork responsibility

The latest Hudson Employment Index was covered on all the mass media news outlets today. The headlines are:

  • 37% of workers will not take all of their vacation time this year
  • 24% of workers will not take any time off all year,
  • most workers who do take time will stay connected with their work via phone calls, email, etc.

From a teamwork perspective, I see taking vacation and time off as a serious responsibility just like any other work assignment. If team members fail to take time to relax away from the workplace, the entire team is likely to suffer the consequences. These consequences can include lost productivity, higher levels of stress, unnecessary tension with co-workers, lack of creativity, and a feeling of entitlement because of so-called “sacrifices.”

Working too much overtime is a similar matter and holds many of the same pitfalls. How many time have you seen great team members burn out and pull down projects because they tried to work nights and weekends without adequate breaks?

Most people do not skip vacations or work overtime to cause their teams to fail. Quite the contrary, most team members will have great intentions and will not recognize the potential negative consequences. Highly productive people may believe they can continue to function well during endless periods of non-stop focus on work. In these situations, it becomes incumbent on managers/team leaders to make workers aware that periodic breaks are not only an option, but are necessary for the employee to maintain productivity and satisfaction.

Consider what another finding from the Hudson study might tell us about those who opt to take vacations:

Only eight percent of workers earning more than $100k per year have not taken off from work this year.

I see two ways to read this. First, it could be that those making $100K can afford to take vacations and, therefore, take them more frequently. An equally plausible explanation is that those who make a habit of taking time away from the workplace are productive enough to earn $100k, and they continue their time-off habits.

This is clearly a chicken-and-egg question with no real solution. My experience, however, suggests that productive people accomplish a lot while at work, then they leave the work behind and enjoy the rest of their lives. This kind of work-life balance is important for the success of the team and the individual.

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