I had lunch the other day with one of the other women from work. There are only a handful of us, and so it was a very welcome opportunity to get away from the guys. She is roughly my age, but is married and has a lovely young daughter. She has also been with the company for a few years. In many ways, I look up to her for a lot of reasons (handling the career-mother-wife balance, running a tight ship in her field, etc. etc.). However, part of our lunch conversation gave me pause to think.
Somehow we landed on the topic of vacations. She mentioned that she hadn’t taken one in three years (the last being a short trip after her honeymoon). She has taken a bit of time off here and there, but will spend it responding to calls and e-mails from the office or clients and can never leave her Blackberry too far away.
This disappoints me. My boss is the same way. When he is on ‘vacation’ with his family, he’s constantly in touch and sending me materials for our clients. To this degree, he is shorting his family of quality time, he’s shorting himself from recuperation time, and he’s not really doing a service to the clients (even though the work he does is always top rate).
I am beginning to plan my vacation timing. So I asked him when would be a good time for me to leave for a week? When he is not on vacation, so one of us will be available for the clients? Or should I go when he goes so he is forced not to send work (if I’m not there, he can’t send me work…therefore, he shouldn’t be working!). I chide him when he’s in Florida and calling me at 8am to talk about what needs to be faxed where that day.
But I digress. I saw my Dad work hellacious hours, but when he was on vacation with us, he left work behind. Of course, it helped that Mom picked remote and non-connected locales (inability to fax, phone, or e-mail is a plus). But that was Dad’s style even before Mom. He used to take the whole month of January off from his work and ski in Colorado. No clients. No e-mail. No connection to the work world.
And this is the model I carry. Yes, part of me gets a bit guilty because there are certain things that only I can do in the office. But at the end of the day, the world will not stop revolving because I take 5 days for myself. Nor will a building fall down because I am in Maine for the color tour, without my cell phone. Sure, it may be inconvenient for a few days, but people will get over it.
And I need it for my mental health. In fact, I applaud companies that make their employees use their vacation time. I believe we, as a society generally, tend to work without allowing ourselves requisite time to recharge. In fact, on average, Americans work more than western Europeans and take less vacation time. But for what? Germany, Sweden, etc. all have very strong economies while working less and spending more time on holiday.
So at the end of the day, I will take my full vacation time. And I will not “work” while on vacation. And I will let my mind, body, physiology, chi all recharge. And I urge you all to do the same.