American workers are working longer hours (about nine hours to nine and one half hours per day). They are taking less and less of the vacation time to which they are entitled. This trend has been increasing in recent years. In some cases employees believe that by not using vacation days they are demonstrating commitment and loyalty to their company. Others are creating an emergency cushion of paid leave “in the bank" should they ever need paid leave.
Some employees do not take vacations because they are unwilling to risk having a large workload pile up while they are gone and be waiting for them when they return. Still others cannot afford to go anywhere on vacation and find it boring to stay at home.
There are what could be described as “sub trends" that go hand in hand with not using or only partially using vacation days. One such sub trend is that of taking on the vacation a cell phone and laptop filled with vital files. This approach is the equivalent of having one's cake and eating it too. The idea is to enjoy working while at the beach, in the cabin or next to the pool. And then there is the very widespread trend of getting less and less sleep in order to work longer and longer hours each day.
Business owners and managers would do well to insist that these trends be reversed in their workplaces for any number of reasons. Here are some of the reasons.
- The human mind does not function well without adequate rest.
- Getting away from work helps prevent boredom and burnout.
- Stress builds up with prolonged concentration such as endless work.
- We all make more mistakes when we are tired.
- We all actually become less efficient and make more poor decisions when we grind away too long without respite at our jobs.
- Our health breaks down when we skip sleep or work too long and too much.
- We let our world shrink down to work when that is mainly all we do. This makes us boring, less imaginative, and ultimately a liability to the very company or employment position we are striving to enhance.
Americans are under the gun. Unemployment is rising and the cost of living is outstripping earnings for most workers. This means that stress is rising, rapidly. Seemingly the whole country is experiencing a gigantic collective shudder, something like a ship groaning before it gets ready to sink. The critical factor in this situation is management. The manager sets the tone, gives the example and either encourages or discourages employee assumptions about what it takes to keep a job or get ahead.
The in phrase these days is “counter intuitive", a fancy word for going against the prevailing wisdom. The manager needs to set an example that goes against the prevailing logic in order to reduce the attitudes and behaviors that are in fact adding to the stress and in the long run will hurt both the company and the workers.
Here are some starting points:
- Turn the lights off and send everybody home at quitting time.
- Get yourself out of the office and go home right along with everybody else.
- Make sure you get lots of rest and sleep, and take a nap at work every so often.
- Provide a nap room for those who get drowsy.
- Take your vacations and make sure everyone else makes a vacation schedule and uses their vacation.
Do not take work home and do not EVER take work with you on vacation. Take days off here and there throughout the year and schedule everyone else to do the same.
When you notice anybody working too long or too hard be sure to lessen their workload. Do the same for yourself.
Believe in the goodness of your people. The first reaction to the suggestions offered here will likely be one of skepticism, a concern that folks will take advantage and that the net effect will be mostly a sloppy work ethic. The actual reaction, however, is determined by how you explain these steps and how you handle yourself. The manager sets the tone verbally and by example. In many cases you may find that individuals need specific explanations about what is expected, so don't be bashful about explaining in detail when necessary.
Remember, stress leads to burnout. Burnout leads to poor decisions and poor work quality. Now is not the time for martyrs!
Losoncy is a licensed therapist, an executive coach and president of three corporations. To learn more about his coaching and training services go to http://www.mvpseminars.com