Last Thursday, I got a reminder from my company to check out my “total rewards” page on the intranet. I dutifully went to the page to make sure that my 401k and other investment allocations were where I wanted them to be, and I happened to glance over to another part of the page and see my vacation balance.
As luck would have it, I had just earlier that day finished reading an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review around employees not taking their vacation… and I am definitely one of the guilty ones there. Although I earn 22 days of vacation per year, my current balance is the full 22 days because it rolls over from year to year, and some red text warned me that I had long ago stopped accruing vacation because my bank was too full. Yikes!
I have long been guilty of not using my vacation days, and that HBR article pointed out a lot of the excuses that I use. It’s not that I think things would fall to pieces in my absence; it’s that I feel like there are better times than others to take my vacation (true) and that I should wait for one of those perfect times before taking any of mine (false). Furthermore, I’m always worried that me taking vacation is going to be looked on negatively by my clients – like, “we are paying XX for her so why isn’t she working?” However, particularly for long-term clients, we build that vacation into our contracts… so that argument doesn’t really hold water.
Last Thursday, I wrote about my first week in Dallas and how I’m trying to make sure that I start things off on the right foot. One of the ways in which I’m doing that is being completely transparent about my time off. This week, I have a full week of facilitating the Discover program I’ve written about before – I am so excited and can’t believe it’s finally here! So on Sunday morning before I flew out to the resort where we hold Discover, I turned on my Out of Office autoresponder… and it won’t be turned off until next Saturday. Furthermore, I sent my key stakeholders an email tying up my final loose ends and confirming that I would be out (just in case the million times I had mentioned it in the last week weren’t enough).
Both of those actions are things I’ve resisted doing in the past, since I really hate putting it in writing that I’m not working. Just like the HBR article says, I am definitely one of those who tries to take “stealth vacations” because I feel guilty about stating my time off and then sticking to it. Unfortunately, I’ve kind of gone the workaholic way when I’m “caught” without my day blocked off – and I’ve canceled at least a dozen days off when someone made a simple request for a meeting on one of my planned PTO days and I didn’t have the guts to just say no. That habit has to change!
I have to admit, part of the reason I feel more comfortable hammering it home this time is that I’m not on vacation. Since I’m actually faced with the tall order of delivering the week-long Discover program to a class of 400 new senior associates, I’m taking it very seriously, and I really don’t want anything to get in the way of doing that work successfully! But I’m hoping that being this up front now now will make me more comfortable being explicit about my time off when it is personal vacation.
Speaking of which, I can’t claim that I’ve done a total 180 since reading that article. Right now is a busy time for my project, and since I’m already taking two weeks away from my client to do Discover, I don’t really want to take a ton more time off until the holidays. However, next month, Adam is taking me for a romantic weekend getaway in Sonoma (I’ve never been!) and I am taking a day off for that. And perhaps at the holidays I can take a little bit more time in order to bring my vacation balance down a bit so I can start accruing vacation again? It’s a little tricky because I get more vacation days than Adam does, but perhaps a solo trip or girls’ getaway is in order.
I know that recharging is what I need to avoid burnout and keep performing my best. Plus some new evidence even suggests that people who take vacations may be more likely to get promoted? Win-win!