The furthest thing from most entrepreneurs’ minds is vacation. When launching and growing a business, the primary focus is on executing the business plan and, with any luck, generating profits. The same holds true for executive leaders; most don’t take on senior roles with the thought of vacation in mind. Instead, most executives are focused on their tasks at hand which often include fiscal and human relations oversight, business management and corporate growth.
Keeping these things in mind, it is important to remember that, just like at home with children and their parents, employees often take cues from leadership and emulate the leaders’ behavior (especially if they are trying to climb the corporate ladder).
Vacation options vary based on your areas of business, the reliability of others to handle your work in your absence, and your personal preferences for down time. For some solopreneurs, that may mean taking a week’s vacation and shutting down the office. For others, it means two weeks away from the office and leaving others in charge. There is no steadfast rule; however, down time is important for the overall health of all individuals and certainly for the overall health of a business.
Smart scheduling strategies (such as planning down time during less active months) and efficiently working ahead of time (wrapping up matters and meeting all deadlines that will occur during your vacation time) can help. For solos, if you don’t already have office help, consider hiring a short term call answering service or virtual assistant. In the alternative, set up your voicemail to inform callers that you are unreachable until a certain date and will follow up with them upon your return to the office. And as Murphy’s Law often has it, there is always the possibility of a business or client crisis arising during your absence. In that case, make sure that you have a plan in place, such as a way for you to be reached or someone who can manage the crisis in your absence. Such challenges should not prevent one from taking time off; time off is vital to recharge and avoid burnout, which will sabotage your business and personal success in the long run.
For small offices, the options are wider, and often come down to the way your business functions day to day. Using a team approach to handle client matters helps spread the knowledge and the responsibility, so if one person is out of the office, the rest of the team can pick up the slack. In that way, clients’ needs are always met. An auto reply email is also helpful in managing expectations when you are away from the office and ensuring that clients or customers always have another alternative contact person.
While I do tend to work long hours, as many professionals do, I have become more mindful of the impact that kind of stress has on the rest of my life and on my family. I also know that the Furia Rubel team members are taking their cues from what I do. Before I went on vacation this summer, our Vice President of Public Relations, Sarah Larson, encouraged me NOT to check emails (I laughed) while I was away and gave me this simple and appreciated anecdote:
“Vacation might not sound like a novel stress management tool, but at a time when an estimated 4 in 10 U.S. workers do not take their paid vacation days because of pressure to appear more invested in their work, having a CEO who shows by example that vacation time brings benefit not just to the employee but also to the workplace is important.” (And if you know Sarah, you know that she said it just that way.)
Sarah then sent me a link to a U.S. Travel Association report, which found that “The average American with paid time off (PTO) used 16 of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, down from an average of 20.3 days off from 1976 to 2000.” It added that 169 million days of permanently forfeited U.S. vacation time equated to $52.4 billion in lost benefits.
As one who wants my employees to take advantage of the benefits, I did find this statistic alarming.
As a result, I encourage all business executives to disconnect from work when practical and possible. For me, that means I vanish with my family for two weeks each year, and I'll take sporadic days off throughout the rest of the year when needed.
While away, I do check email daily when I have service, so that I’m not buried when I return to the office. However, I don’t “respond” to emails unless it is an urgent matter that I cannot otherwise delegate. If it is something that can be handled by someone other than me, then I rely on the expertise of our team. I communicate what I need before I leave, everyone has their marching orders, and the members of our well-seasoned marketing and public relations teams don’t contact me during vacation unless there’s a true emergency.
Undistracted vacation with my family allows me to be the mother and wife that I love to be. It allows me to experience the world and to return to work with renewed vigor and passion. I expect the same for every member of our Furia Rubel team. I encourage everyone to take time off from work and have witnessed greater productivity and deeper personal engagement as a result.
If you want to read more about the benefits of encouraging employees to take vacation, then read Inc. magazine’s article: Four Reasons Why You Need to Encourage Employees to Use Vacation.