October 25, 2020

Workstation: Working at Making the Most of Your Vacation

Well, maybe not.

Assuming that they get a paid vacation — far from a given in the United States — employees may be reluctant to take time off because of towering workloads and fears that their jobs are vulnerable. If they do arrange for time off, there is the stress of getting work done in advance or delegating duties to co-workers.

Once a vacation starts, it can be exciting, refreshing and relaxing. But not always: it can also be profoundly destabilizing, with the lack of a predictable routine causing anxiety. And there is the heightened possibility of losing things, whether luggage, hotel reservations, cabin pressure, directions or respect for a travel companion.

Then, after time off, employees face a flood of pent-up e-mails and demands — unless they were obsessively responding to them during the vacation, thereby wiping out the restorative value it may have had.

These days, because of technology, it’s very hard to disengage completely from the office during a vacation, says Daniel H. Pink, the author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” who answered questions about vacations while he was on a recent vacation.

The border between what is work and what is personal is more porous than ever, and that cuts both ways, Mr. Pink says. So while people may have to answer an e-mail from their boss on a Sunday, he notes, they may also order shoes online or make an orthodontist appointment for their child while at work.

Whereas the transition from working to going on vacation used be like an on-off switch, it’s now more of a dimmer switch, Mr. Pink says, and people need to adjust it in a way that works for them. For example, during his vacation, he tends to check e-mail only a few times a day.

Barbara Adachi, a principal in Deloitte Consulting’s human capital practice, started creating a stricter separation between vacation and work when she was in Patagonia on vacation several years ago. Her BlackBerry didn’t get reception there, she said, “and I had no choice but not to check it — it was very freeing.”

Now she doesn’t check e-mail at all during vacations, and if there is an urgent situation, people can contact her assistant, who knows how to reach her.

In the belief that vacations ultimately make employees more productive, Deloitte Consulting keeps a “watch list” of people who are billing a lot of hours and haven’t taken time off in a while, Ms. Adachi says. The company also keeps track of when people on the same project are planning to take time off, to ensure that “somebody’s got your back when you’re out,” she says.

Cross-training and planning are crucial to ensuring that people take all their vacation time, thereby improving their health and happiness, says John de Graaf, executive director Take Back Your Time, an organization that promotes work/life balance. In European Union countries, where a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation is mandated, companies take this training much more seriously, he says.

Mr. de Graaf’s plea to have the United States require companies to provide time for vacation has fallen on deaf Congressional ears. Such a law would be a tough sell. Is it any coincidence, after all, that the United States is among the most productive nations in the world and that American workers take just about the least amount of vacation?

It’s true that American businesses are highly productive, Mr. de Graaf says, and that can be linked in part to the fact that Americans work more hours.

But companies need to be aware that not taking time off exacts a price in the form of employee burnout, poor physical and mental health and high turnover, he adds.

Also, vacations just plain make people happier, right?

Interestingly, a recent study out of the Netherlands, though confirming that vacations do heighten happiness, found that the greatest benefit occurred before the vacation — in short, anticipation appears to trump reality.

In recognition of this, people may want to consider taking more trips of shorter duration, Jeroen Nawijn, the lead author of the study,  told The New York Times last year.

“If you have a two-week holiday, you can split it up and have two one-week holidays,” he said. “You could try to increase the anticipation effect by talking about it more and maybe discussing it online.”

So perhaps bosses should be understanding if they happen to see their employees sneaking a look at Kayak.com or Tripadvisor.com while sitting at their desks.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6dcc67ab0cf2eb3b18403842d207d37b

Corner Office: Linda Lausell Bryant: Note to Staff: We’re a Team, Not a Family

Q. Talk about some important influences for you.

A. Part of my background includes conflict resolution training. And I really feel like that has shaped me tremendously. There are understandable tendencies among people to say, “Let’s avoid conflict.” I was trained to really go for it, and find out what some disagreement is about. What’s really underlying it? What are the underlying needs and issues here?

So two people will present the conflict as, “I wanted the red one; she wanted the blue.” Or whatever it is. But is it really about the red or the blue, or what’s it really about? I’ve always felt particularly adept at finding out the underlying psychodynamic issues. The training to not avoid the conflict — to kind of go for it and learn to get comfortable with it — was something that shaped me very much.

Q. How else does your background influence the way you manage and lead?

A. You have to respect not only people’s needs, but also their pain, their vulnerability. A lot of battles are about very personal things. I’m very attuned to the unspoken needs that people play out in the workplace. People are people in whatever setting — they bring their luggage of stuff, we all do — and the dynamics in the workplace are a function of the interaction of what we all have in our suitcases. You can’t change that. You can acknowledge it. You can give it space. You can give it air and light. In the end, it can’t rule the day, either, because in the workplace there are higher things and rules that are going to guide what we need to do here. It’s helpful to know that, and be aware of it as a boss, and it’s even better if employees are aware of it and that they feel that you’re not trying to change who they are.

So I really try to allow people to bring their full selves, and I try to hire with an eye toward: “O.K., what is it that you have? What are these personal characteristics that you have in addition to all your obvious qualifications that would mesh with this organization, that are complementary to what we’re trying to get done here?”

Q. How has your leadership style evolved?

A. Recently, I’ve really shifted my thinking. Our culture reflected our work, which is to create a sense of family for our teens. So our staff would say: “We’re a family. We’re a family.” And I’ve actually said directly to everyone in all-staff meetings: “We’re not a family, because in a family you never can fire somebody like your Uncle Joe. You just can’t. You have to put up with him because he’s family. In an organization, if someone is taking the organization down, we can’t accept that because the organization is bigger than any one of us.”

So I’ve said to them that the analogy that best suits us is, “We’re a team,” and in a team, everybody’s got a role to play. And the team wins when everybody plays their roles to their best ability. The other thing that’s different in a team is that people understand the concept of roles. So if you’re the manager, you have a job to do as a manager. No one, generally speaking, resents the fact that you have authority because they understand that it comes with the role of a manager and that teams need managers. They don’t manage themselves.

But in a family, it is about power. You know, Mom or Dad has the power, and I think the dynamic that often plays out in a workplace is that people project all of their parental stuff. And I remember a job where I actually had to say to my team: “I am not your mother. I’m the division director here. I have a job to do. You have a job to do.”

Q. How else has your leadership style changed?

A. I feel I’ve grown up more as a manager in this job. It’s been a process, but I’ve really grown up because I went from being the charismatic leader, the leader everyone loves — “I love you, and you love me, and we’re a big, happy family” — to being more comfortable with everyone not being happy. I’d like everyone to be happy, but I can take it if they’re not. And I no longer feel like it’s my job to make sure everyone is happy. My job is to fulfill the mission of this organization, and to make sure that all the pieces are in place so that we can do that.

Q. What changes did you make when you took over?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6e543adf57a5d2c96a81f265b9386d3a