A recent survey by careers website Glassdoor found that the average U.S. employee who receives paid vacation only takes about half of it. While it’s great that so many people are working hard, a vacation is actually an important part of productivity.
In this Forbes article, Tine Thygesen shares her opinion about why vacation is important in the work world.
“Many entrepreneurs, executives and self-employed people pride themselves on being too busy for vacation. They perceive it as a sign of importance and commitment. For me as an entrepreneur, the opposite is true. Having started and run five businesses, I’ve learnt the hard way that the most important thing is not being busy, but rather to work on the right things. In such a mindset a holiday actually an investment, not a sunk cost.
I live in Scandinavia, where five weeks of holiday is not only normal, it is legally mandatory for employers. Despite (or perhaps because of) the long vacations the region is a hot bed for startups and innovation, enjoys an unrivaled quality of living and all Scandinavia’s countries are in the top 20% of GDP per capita in the world.
Here are 10 reasons why you also can’t afford not to take a break this summer:
1. The world does not stop because you leave the office.
In my first company I thought I had to be at the office constantly. Now, five companies later, I know that the world goes on even when I am sick or on vacation. Most professionals know this, but the guilty feeling of being away is hard to beat; I use the following tips to alleviate it.
2. Your company needs you to be recharged for autumn.
Whereas summer is a quiet period for most companies, autumn is a power session. Together with spring it’s the most important sales period, and best for deals, financing and partnerships. Therefore, it is actually in the interest of the company that you invest in being ready for it. While business is slow anyway, get some sleep, exercise and catch up with friends and family — if you’re like most people you’re probably behind on all three. So rather than thinking of a break as something you do for yourself, then do it for the sake of your company’s future productivity.
3. You’ll end up miserable if you don’t take breaks.
You can force yourself through many years of working without breaks, but ultimately, your body and mind will be fed up. Some people get broken down by stress at this point, some get depressed and the lucky ones just get demotivated and quit their jobs. When you start dreaming about calling it quits and living on a tropical island writing novels, it’s time to take some time off.
4. It’s your best time to learn something new.
When I’m CEO, I am keep my eyes 100% on the ball. That means there are hundreds of things I would like to learn, but never get time for. So I use vacations to read books about other entrepreneurs’ stories (for entertainment) and business literature (for learning). I top that up with videos and blog posts about things I find interesting. I typically have one topic planned, for the rest I just follow my interest and see where I end up. On top of that, I go to a new place each year, to make sure my perceptions are challenged and I broaden my horizons.
5. You need to be working on your business, not in it.
This is absolutely the most important thing: As a founder or executive your primary job actually not producing stuff (whether that is code, copy, sales etc.) but to make the right decisions. That doesn’t mean you don’t work in the business too, that’s necessary too – but it means that the strategic pondering you can’t find time for is actually important work too. Let me explain; a company can be super busy, sprinting ahead in that feels like great progress. but if it’s actually running in the wrong strategic direction, then it will still lose in the end, no matter how fast it was running. Therefore it’s critical that you have the strategic overview. This is best achieved by considering your business from the outside, by reflection and inspiration. Personally, my eureka moments come after stimulating conversations, never in front of my computer. A vacation is great to get far enough away mentally to allow you to see your company and industry from above.
6. Your employees will grow if you’re not there.
Often I feel guilty when I consider holiday, knowing that my colleagues will be working hard at the office. I might also be worried that things won’t get done the way I want them to if I am not there. Luckily, experience has shown me that as long as things are done, it’s less important if they are done my way (turns out my ideas are not always the best). An even more important lesson for me was that that many employees actually get better when the boss is away, because they get to step up and take on extra responsibility.
7. You won’t really miss out on important decisions.
Agreed, there is a chance something happens while you are away, but, as business slows to a standstill in many departments and companies over summer it’s unlikely to be anything major. And even if you do have a conniving colleague or competitor who stays put during summer, then you’ll have the upper hand in the months to come when they get more and more stale and tired.
8. You can get physically stronger.
Even if you spend a good portion of your break dazing on a beach you can easily introduce exercise and healthy living. Especially if you’re normally too busy for a healthy lifestyle, then a break is a great time to get a game of tennis, a daily swim or an hour of yoga in. And the bbq is a great chance for grilled vegetables, lean meats and summer salads. By doing this, you come back stronger after the break.
9. You get to work on the stuff you don’t normally have time for.
If you can’t convince yourself that a real time-out is called for (you should have one at least once a year) then take a ‘strategy break’. I take one or two each year where I go off-agenda and work on all the things I’d like to get done but never get to because they are either not urgent or important enough. This can be fun work, like writing blog posts, or it can be annoying admin, like tax returns, that otherwise drain your energy if you leave them hanging. Personally, I prefer strategic thinking sessions. It’s greatly energizing to see that to-do list getting smaller and smaller, getting items ticked off that seemed destined to be stuck forever!
10. Big ideas ripen slowly.
Really big thoughts, like the direction of your life, the vision for your company or the direction of disruption rarely come at once. Instead, they are composed by a multitude of thoughts and impressions. After a while the many abstract thoughts in your mind start to merge into a holistic picture. It’s part of my personality type to in a hurry so I find this frustrating at times, but after years of trying to force it, I have to admit that my best decisions come after allowing thoughts to mature on an unconscious level for a while. For me, walks, learning, experiencing new places, yoga, conversations with talented people and calm places work well, for you it may be something else entirely. But for everyone, it’s healthy to allow themselves time to think bigger than it normally possible. Time away is great for that.
All in all, I actually think that as an entrepreneur and executives, or any modern human wanting to get the most out of life, you cannot afford not to pull the plug once in a while.”