Last week, I took my first official vacation since the start of the pandemic. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much I needed a break until I sat down with my book and a cup of tea. Gazing at the water, I just let myself breathe for what felt like the first time in months.
Like many, I went into the first few weeks of COVID-19 thinking it would be a short period of pain and sacrifice. But it’s become clear this will not be a sprint back to “normal.” We’re in a marathon of change and ambiguity toward an undefined new reality. Taking breaks whether vacations, staycations, or even mini-mental recharge moments are critical if we want to sustain our pace for the duration.
That’s why I’m so glad the Weekend TODAY SHOW asked me to contribute to a segment on the importance of vacations (which aired, ironically, when I was on vacation).
By reinforcing the benefits and sharing examples of those payoffs, hopefully, the segment inspired individuals and leaders of organizations to prioritize “taking the breaks” we need now more than ever.
Look, even before the pandemic, U.S. workers weren’t that great about taking time off (I raise my hand as guilty too). Now, add the disappearance of the traditional boundaries between work and life that occurred as we shifted to remote work during COVID-19, amidst a drastically weakening economy. No wonder, as I explained in yesterday’s Washington Post, we’re facing “a toxic brew of burnout and overwhelm.”
In the “Weekend TODAY” segment, I quoted recent research from The Conference Board that found between 16 and 23 percent of organizations plan to make PTO mandatory during the next three months. The reason is two-fold. Yes, they would rather not have the liability of untaken PTO on their books at year-end, but more importantly, I believe these employers understand they may need to make their people take the breaks they need, especially right now.
Here are a few tips for managers to encourage people to take time off that didn’t make it into the TODAY segment:
- Create a shared Vacation/PTO spreadsheet with space for everyone on your team.
- Highlight the days/weeks through the end of the year where either work is particularly busy or where everyone might want time off (e.g. holidays).
- Send the spreadsheet to your team asking them to fill out when they plan to take Vacation/PTO.
- When completed, review the shared spreadsheet. If there are too many people who requested the same time off. have a conversation with them.
- Once finalized, ask everyone to commit to their dates on a shared vacation/PTO calendar, recognizing timing/plans may change.
I’m five days into my re-entry from vacation, and even more so than in prior years, I can tell what a huge difference the time away made in my overall sense of well-being and resilience. We can get through this, but it’s going to take a much more deliberate focus on where we put our time and attention and where we do not.
So are you planning to take a break? And if you have already, how did you feel afterward? As always, I’d love to hear about it.