What's your philosophy about time off and vacations? Do the people who work for you know it? Increasingly, I find myself in rooms with CEOs having conversations about vacations. If you're like these other leaders, you want your employees to use their personal and vacation days -- and support their colleagues to, as well.
Yet, odds are they aren't. Or, if they are, they aren't getting the full benefit of that time away. According to the 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, around half of American employees feel shame and guilt when taking time off work.
You don't want the people who work for you to feel shame and guilt about taking earned time off. Those feelings drain productivity, take moral down, and deplete the trustworthiness of your company and your leadership.
Here's how to make sure vacation shaming in your company can't take root:
1. Clarify your philosophy for time off and vacations
This isn't about some dry HR policy. It's about bringing your philosophy around time off to life.
Make it clear you understand the impact of people not taking time away from work. Talk about the signs and indicators you see when people are depleted. How creativity and productivity dry up when people are...
Flying off the handle.
Snapping at one another.
Letting little things become big things.
Cutting people off.
Cutting people down.
Illustrate the value you see created when people use their earned time off. The collaboration and innovation that's fueled. The pride and satisfaction of business results that are achieved when people are operating on all cylinders, instead of hanging on by a thread.
2. Make an agreement to support one another
As a leader, it's your job to set the tone for how people view vacations in your company. Yet, each and every employee needs to take responsibility for embracing their own time off, and supporting others to embrace theirs.
Help people take on this shared responsibility. Formalize the agreement to support one another to take earned personal and vacation days. Embed healthy work/life balance into your culture.
3. Co-create protocol to protect people's time away
When people take a vacation, they need support. From getting out ahead before they leave, to managing time-sensitive emails while they're gone, to getting caught up on deliverables when they return - people need the support of their teams to set up, take, and actually enjoy their time away.
At the core of that support is managing expectations. What is expected from an employee who takes time off, and what is expected from other members of the team to help make that time off a success?
Help people co-create a protocol to protect both the time away and the team's deliverables. Get tactical. Erase ambiguity around what's expected when a team member steps out of "the loop." Support people to be aligned and forge agreements around timelines. And, most importantly?
Create signals for people who're stockpiling time off without taking it.
4. Celebrate balance
Establishing a culture that celebrates balance -- that supports people to be healthy and whole -- takes work. To keep the momentum going, look for gains to celebrate.
How are people showing up in their relationships with one another when they're rejuvenated, instead of stretched and stressed?
How is teamwork positively impacted when people are supported to regularly step away to "fill back up?"
Talk about these gains! Lift them up and use them to make the value of time off concrete. Demonstrate that you care about your employees....not just as production engines, but as people.
People with a life.