Vacation: Beating the Burnout

a nice view of a beach

We have all been there, many of us may be in the midst of it while reading this, the burnout. The past 13 months have thrown more at us professionally (and personally) than any of us could have imagined, let alone planned. 

We have closed, reopened, closed again. We have established policies at the beginning of the month only to find that they do not fit the new business model or regulation by the end of the month.  We’ve made decisions to pivot in our industry to keep our doors open. We have cut back employee hours, furloughed or laid-off employees. We may now be in a hiring frenzy, in a challenging market, to try and get back up and running. 

Some of us may feel like Green Eggs and Ham and have worked onsite, worked from home, worked from here and there and everywhere but, the one thing most of us haven’t done is stop working. And while that has been a blessing in a time where unemployment rates have risen, without a way to vacation and unplug, it is also a clear path to burnout.

There is new data just about everywhere we look that discuss employee and management burnout, and it seems as if it is at an all-time high. What’s more is there is also data showing that employees working remote are working longer hours. Let’s face it, even if we took time away from work, where would we go? The general consensus has been, “Well, I can’t go anywhere, so I guess I will continue to work…”

An increase in hours, possible decrease in engagement, and no place to travel… anyone else feel like this isn’t sounding great? So, how do we beat the burnout? 

We can start by leading by example-

Business owners and operators are to time off like doctors are to being good patients. Typically, they are nose to the grindstone and rarely come up for air and this can set a tone in the organization. It is important for your teams to see that you take time for much-needed R&R. This lets them know that it is okay for them to do the same.

Educate on the benefits of time off-

Incorporate this into your wellness plans. The mental health crisis in the U.S. is real, and COVID has only exacerbated the issues many Americans face. Time away from stress, responsibility and obligation is good for the soul and we all need a little good right now. It is also a great recharge. Have you ever taken time off and been ready to return to work and tackle those big projects? (I know I have.) time away from the office can actually increase productivity upon return.

Prepare for Out-of-Office-

One of the largest concerns we have about being away is what the work will look like when we return. If we receive hundreds of emails each day and those go unchecked while we are out, what type of avalanche are we coming back to? We can ease this cause for anxiety by planning for coverage when employees are out and implementing policy that the first day back is blocked on schedules as a “catch-up” day rather than jumping into the fire.

Eliminate Vacation Shaming-

Create a culture where people are not shamed for being out of the office. When employees have the fear that they are letting their teams down or work in an environment where negative comments are allowed about being out, they are less likely to take the time they need to be away. This is a form of bullying and the “banker’s hours” remarks should not be tolerated.

Force Time Away-

Force makes it sound intimidating but stay with me here for a moment. I am not suggesting that we shut down the company and production for weeks at a time or even full days but, what if we had half-day Fridays during the summer months, or late start Mondays? This can be done on a rotational manner where departments are switched each week. “Staycations” are still vacations. This can also help for those of us that have PTO caps many of our employees have reached, as there was nowhere to go. Those employees are no longer accruing time off and feel like they are missing that time. Consider this an added benefit that can boost employee morale and may assist in mitigating abuse of paid time off policies. This, like all things HR, will look different for every company. It is worth an internal discussion to see what works for your business and culture.

It is estimated that 768 million vacation days were left on the table in 2018, long before the pandemic, so you can guess that the 2020 number is much higher than that staggering figure. Time away from the office can aide in mental clarity, provide balance, better relationships, and improve focus and productivity. So,  let’s make it more of a priority. Let’s lead by example, end the moratorium on time away and beat the burnout.

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