This one’s for all of you who believe you are truly indispensable at work. It’s also for your employees who are really annoyed that you don’t trust them to carry on in your absence. Breaking news – the world will not end if you take a vacation. If it does, I think welcoming the apocalypse on a beach with a Kaluha Colada is preferable to being crushed in a stampede of office workers headed to the one working elevator in the building.
The syndrome, ‘work martyr complex’, has been recently identified among workers in the U.S.. Entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible. It’s highly communicable and may result in personal burnout. Long term effects include loss of perspective, sense of humor and anyone who has ever worked for you.
It’s one thing to leave paid vacation time on the table, but it’s taking it to the next level when it’s treated as a badge of honor within organizations. Executives encourage employees to take time off, but many leave a portion of their own vacation time unused. These same executives expect folks to be available even when thousands of miles and multiple time zones separate you.
Good news, the effects of ‘work martyr complex’ are reversible. All it requires is that you remove the Joan of Arc costume and be yourself – you know, yourself – the creative, curious colleague who used to interact with co-workers and leave the office for lunch or a walk around the parking lot.
By the way, your competitors are poaching your best people. How? By offering extended vacation time and gaining the benefit of increased productivity from a refreshed workforce.
Journalist Jack Dickey reported for Time Magazine on this new trend in the retail sector:
“On May 14, billboards went up around Houston and Philadelphia, with H&M advertising careers…and extolling one benefit in particular. Five weeks vacation is possible, the signs read.
H&M’s recruiting campaign says a lot about anxieties in the American workforce. The retailer is trying to crack an unexpectedly hard nut: getting American workers to take more time off.”
Beyond the direct competitor benefit consideration, the research is solid. Stepping away invigorates employee contribution.
Entrepreneur Magazine uncovered ‘The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off’.
“There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources,” says Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies job demands and employee motivation. “When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”
That’s counterintuitive in a culture programmed to believe that it takes near-nonstop work to get the sale, beat the competitor or do whatever is needed to succeed. For most entrepreneurs, rest is considered the province of lesser mortals, put off for a future that never arrives. It’s as if each day is an Ironman triathlon that requires one to crawl across the finish line on all fours.
Vacations have been shown to lead to significantly higher performance upon return to the job. The energizing ingredients are time away from stressors (you need two weeks to get the recuperative benefits from burnout) and mastery and social experiences while on vacation that build competence and social connection.”
“If you don’t give your employees time to think and play, you’re not going to have the creativity you need to succeed,” says Vincent Berk, CEO of FlowTraq.”
Time to redefine vacation as an organizational value, not a benefit.