Vacation Policy ShiftsMany of us do this. We carve out the time. We plan the family vacation. As we hit the road or jet way, our workplace disappears into the background, yet it is still right next to us in our digital devices.

The new reality is we never really, completely, wholeheartedly leave work behind. Work is attached to our hip and safely placed in our carry-on bags.

The reasons for this change are many, but it directly relates to the hyper-connectivity of our current world of activities, the streamlined nature of our organizations, and our desire not to spend many hours catching up when we return. We would rather dabble with work while we are on vacation than drown in it when we return.

For organizations, the new, new reality of vacations may need to shift our thinking on vacation policies and approaches. It may also mean a shift on how individuals get that needed break from it all, too.

4 New, New Vacation Practices and Policies

Here are four new, new vacation practices and policies for us to embrace.

P1: Moments of silence during the day.

Mindfulness is gaining traction in the business world, and an element of the practice is to take a break and be present in a moment of silence. What this means for individuals is to take a break or two during our work days. We should:

  • Close the door, sit in silence.
  • Unplug and take a 5 minute walk
  • Turn everything off during our drives to and from work

There may be other practices, but it is taking the momentary moment to catch our breath, let our thoughts breathe, and refresh our mindset.

P2: Each year, one week of training.

Although vacations are still needed, knowing there will be a mix of rest and work requires a subtle change in approach. Each year, organizations should encourage and enable individuals to take a week for training. It could be a week-long course in some topic, or it could be 2-3 shorter workshops. Whatever the mix, these training opportunities give individuals a time to renew their thinking and re-energize ways to tackle the increasing workload.

P3: After three years, completely unplug for one week.

Given that we don’t really unplug during our yearly vacations, after three years, an organization should strongly encourage, if not mandate, individuals take off and completely unplug for one week.

  • Autoreply all emails with a contact person.
  • Forward voice mail.
  • Leave your digital devices fully drained and inaccessible.

P4: After six years, completely unplug for one month.

We used to call them sabbaticals, but now they could be called “electronic cleansing retreats.” What organizations may need to realize is that a mind away is a mind revived. With time away, mindsets and attitudes adjust. Creativity engages again. Energy returns. There is a benefit to the organization. After all, organizations and teams are still powered by people more than electronics.

Change is the constant, but how have vacation policies changed to keep pace with our new world of always being connected? It is a key question leaders need to ask and evaluate.

2 Leadership Questions

Embedded in this connected vacation discussion are two leadership questions:

Q1: Are we leading to reflect the new realities by changing and adapting vacation policies?

It is a new reality. Leaders have higher expectations on the effort of the work being done along with the level of performance being delivered. Work is more intense, and we are more connected to it.

The leadership answer needs to be aligned to the changing workplace. Our vacation policies and approaches need to change to reflect and support the new realities (see suggestions outlined above). Leaders need to get in front of this change and put new policies and practices in place.

Q2: Are we taking moments to catch our breath? Are we breaking away and disconnecting from it all?

Leaders, like everyone, need a break from the constant stream of activities. Gaining a pause translates into recharged mindsets and breakthroughs in approach. We can call it “think time away from it all.”

The leadership question is centered on how we are taking-a-break as an example. It is about revitalizing our perspective and re-energizing our spirit. It is also about trust. The level of trust we have in our team can be correlated to how often we touch base with them while we are on vacation. Trusting our team means leaving our team alone while we are on vacation. It also means taking a vacation.

It is time to change. We need to adapt in order to renew our most valuable resources:  our team members and ourselves.

How would you change an organization’s vacation policy in this new world? How are you leading this shift?

Jon Mertz
Jon is a vice president of marketing in the healthcare software industry and named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business by Trust Across America in 2014. His background consists of an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and working for companies like Deloitte, IBM, and BMC Software. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders. Connect with Jon on Twitter @ThinDifference.
Jon Mertz

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