100% Jodi: Do You Believe in Modeling Leadership? Take Time Off
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Too many of us are not taking time off, despite the added stress caused by the pandemic (and the blurred lines between work and home).
What if we shifted our perception of what it means to take time off?
Instead of viewing down time as laziness or a failure, what if we saw time off as an investment in ourselves? It’s about valuing yourself enough to make that investment in yourself and modeling that behavior for others.
This episode is making the case for taking time off and why taking that much-needed break will yield big returns.
Working Conditions Changed During the Pandemic
When was the last time you took a vacation and completely unplugged from work?
Thanks to mobile technology, the internet, and a pandemic, more people are working remotely than ever before. When employees do take time off, they often find themselves checking work emails, taking phone meetings, and doing research.
Statistics are showing that employees who work for companies that offer unlimited time off, take fewer days off than those who have limited time off.
It turns out giving employees carte blanche on time off was a failed experiment.
Part of the hesitancy to take vacation is due to cultural norms.
Why Taking Time Off is so… Hard
Some countries, the United States included, do not require employers to provide vacation benefits.
Many first-world countries have adopted a “Hustle Culture”. The image of the workaholic putting in long hours has become celebrated while “vacation shaming” has become a thing. This is when co-workers are made to feel bad about “burdening others” while they take time away from work.
You may have even had the experience of a co-worker or manager questioning you about how you’re going to use your time off in a way that signals to you they are trying to find a justification for your time off. As if using your PTO time is not in your time to spend unless it’s for something serious.
There may even be more pressure put on leaders within companies with a hustle culture to limit their days off as a way to model expectations. When in fact, as a leader, you want to model how to take time away to recharge.
I have a client who is a single mom. Her daughter was hospitalized a few months ago due to COVID and she had to miss a couple of work meetings, which she communicated.
Afterword her boss asked her if she had the bandwidth for her current role. It was shocking to her and she found herself, in what little free time she had, gathering data that made a case that she did have the bandwidth for her current role and was exceeding expectations. This in a company that publicly states that they value family.
The Many Benefits of Taking Time Off
According to a Forbes Article published in 2021, “studies show overworking long days on a weekly basis make us more stressed and less productive, while detaching from work makes us more energetic and resilient and boosts our productivity and the company’s bottom line.”
The benefits of time off, backed by science, include:
- Immediately gaining a sense of balance and reduced stress.
- The opportunity to recover from physical and mental exhaustion.
- A chance to renew relationships with friends and family members – and having strong positive relationships is good for your mental health.
- Time to focus on your personal needs without having worry of trying to balance it with your workload.
- Improved sleep
- If you travel abroad during your time off, it gives you an opportunity to meet a more diverse group of people, appreciate differences in culture, and think more globally.
Leadership Operating System Quiz
The ability to take guilt-free time off is a critical leadership skill and is necessary if you want to grow as a leader. It is one of 25 areas of leadership addressed in the Leadership Operating System Quiz.
The Leadership Operating System Quiz is as a holistic self-assessment. It allows you to assess your effectiveness in leading others, leading yourself, your ability to influence, your ability to manage your energy, and your communication skills.
It’s a way for you to quickly identify where you could focus your developmental resources. This quiz is also an acknowledgement that you’re getting a lot of things right.
It will take you about 3 minutes to complete, and if you think about it, that’s a quick turnaround to gain insight into what would improve your effectiveness as a leader, and make being a leader more enjoyable.
Go to womentakingthelead.com/leadership-abilities-inventory to find out more and to take the quiz.
Obstacles to Taking Guilt-Free Time Off
I really want to break down the guilt that comes when you consider doing something that is so good for you like taking time off.
Let’s consider the obstacles that might keep you from taking time off (or feeling guilty if you do). The first two are:
Concern about work not getting done.
You may see yourself as the lynchpin or the catchall who keeps your area from falling into chaos.
Fear of resentment from your co-workers who are picking up slack while you are away.
For these two I recommend giving others a chance to show that they are not only capable of getting the work done without you, they also can do it without resenting you.
Don’t forget, your team has career aspirations and the way to show they are ready for your job is to actually do your job.
- Put specific team members as contacts in your out-of-office autoresponder.
- Have them cc you on the emails that they fielded, so you know when you get back that it’s take care of.
- Document anything that falls through the cracks and make it your assignment to train your team to handle it the next time you go on vacation.
As for resentment… we all pick up the slack for each other when we take time off. Because we’re all taking turns, what is there to resent?
Do your best to set them up to successfully handle the overflow while your out, and use anything that doesn’t get handled properly as a learning opportunity.
If anyone does get resentful, remind them that we all take turns. Sometimes, especially if a co-worker is under a tremendous amount of stress, inside or outside of work, they have a hard time seeing beyond their own experience. Sometimes a gentle reminder is all that’s needed to help them refocus.
Workaholism is an attitude that satisfaction, fulfillment and value, come from relentless labor. Rather than being driven by how others perceive you workaholism is driven by how you judge yourself.
I was a bit of a workaholic and I definitely considered how I was perceived by all my co-workers.
As I was rising in the company, I had some of my team members say that, though they wanted my job should I get promoted, they did not want any expectations that they would work my hours should they get the position.
Your team members are watching how you and the other leaders in your company are handling their roles. They are deciding whether or not they would want a promotion in your company or if they’d be better off in a different company culture.
Even if they are not looking for that next promotion, they are thinking about whether or not they can have a life outside of work: time for family, friends and other pursuits.
You are taking time off for the good of the company and for the good of your team.
If you think you might be a workaholic, I want you to consider the big picture. What does it mean to you to have a well-lived life? What are you missing out on when you are working these long hours, weeks and months?
At the end of your life what do you want to look back on?
If money is tight or you hold a belief that a good vacation is a spendy vacation you may find yourself procrastinating on making plans for time off.
Vacation does not have to be spendy. Consider local options, or lesser-known vacation spots that may not demand the dollars the more popular destinations demand. Have you tried being a tourist in your own area? Or maybe getting away for a few days and spending the rest of the time at home resting, reading, or indulging your hobbies?
If you need to coordinate work and social calendars with others it can make planning a trip more difficult. I have a client who is constantly challenged with taking time off with her husband because her work schedule requires advanced planning and his work calendar frequently has last-minute changes. And I’m currently planning a vacation that has my partner’s son as a maybe because the summer practice schedule for football has not been released yet.
The key to overcoming this obstacle is communication. Stay on the same page with all your people, set priorities, and make the call. There may be no perfect time but you can pick the best time for you and yours.
Companies Need to Support Time Off
On a brighter note, there was something positive I experienced vicariously through one of my clients:
About 15 months into the pandemic her CEO mandated that everyone was to take a vacation of a duration no less than 2 weeks during the summer.
The company was reporting high levels of risk for burnout among its employees and, while my client works in the US, the company is a global company headquartered in a country that mandates, and takes pride in, allowing people time to rest and rejuvenate.
My client came back from that vacation smiling, excited and ready to take on the next big challenges. And I’ll tell you, there were many challenges ahead but she was able to deal with them beautifully because she had the energy and the mental bandwidth to do so.
Are you feeling ready for the challenges ahead?
I’ll wrap up this episode with wise words from Michelle Obama.
“One of the things I realized is that if you do not take control over your time and your life, other people will gobble it up. If you don’t prioritize yourself, you constantly start falling lower and lower on your list.“
Stay at the top of your list.
If you’re interested in finding out more about my process, the cost of coaching, or how to ask your employer to pay for you to work with a coach, schedule a time to chat with me.
You can find that link in the episode description. If you’re listening on your phone that will be in your podcast app. If you are listening through the Women Taking the Lead website the link will be toward the bottom of the episode webpage.
There’s also a link in there to access a checklist that will help you prepare to ask your company to sponsor you to work with a coach. https://womentakingthelead.com/checklist
As always, I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!
Checklist to Ask Your Company for Coaching: Would coaching help you become a stronger leader? Wondering if your company would pay? It doesn’t hurt to ask!
Leadership Operating System Quiz: Wondering what kind of Leadership traits you have? Take this FREE, FAST quiz and find out more about yourself as a Leader.
Accomplished: How to Go from Dreaming to Doing: The book containing a simple, step by step system that gives you the foundation and structure to take your goals and make them happen.