That holiday feeling

There is a type of person I will never understand.  Those folks who don’t take all of their holiday entitlement.  I’ve just spent a week in the sun, and am returning to work rested and energised (look out team).  I treasure every day of my holidays, and make the most of all of it.

Many years ago I worked in logistics.  It had a culture of long hours, which for many working there equated to doing good work and having a strong personal brand.  One of the ways that this manifested itself was a very unhealthy, mine is bigger than yours game of ‘I can work longer hours and take less time off than you’.  It was not unusual for me to arrive at work in the morning and see our Operations Manager in the same shirt and tie as the previous day; he simply hadn’t been home and had slept in his office.  The mentality that prevailed was ‘I have to be here or things won’t get done’.  Of course, if this is true, it means you are lousy leader rather than a committed one. It means you haven’t put the right people or the right stuff in place to make sure that the organisation can effectively run in your absence. It creates a culture of checking and completely disempowers people.  Frankly, sometimes it is the sign of an out of control ego, or even a little control freakery.  This particular manager learned his lesson when an injury prevented him getting into work for some weeks.  After some initial confusion due to the many things he had kept to himself, the operation carried on regardless.  And thankfully for everyone else, he then started to loosen his grip and take some time off.

The long hours game is one I have never played.  In fact, I try to do the exact opposite.  I try to be seen leaving at a reasonable time so as to cast a positive shadow that life work balance is good, and presenteemism, well, isn’t.  And if I need to be sat at my desk until 7pm at night, then I believe it indicates I have something of a problem.  Starting with my own time management.

I reckon we have all worked with someone who is happy to tell everyone how little time they take off, or how many hours they work.  I’m sure every HR department has someone who turns up at the end of the year and asks to carry 15 days holiday forward.  Such people should be booked into a time management course pronto. Or marched to a travel agent.  Leaders have an absolute responsibility to make sure that the people that work for them have appropriate rest.

Time off is absolutely critical.  We need space away from our routine and the daily schedule in order to be healthy, to be at our best, to think well.  Excessive hours, lack of rest and slaving at the inbox are good for neither individual or organisation.

Working 15 hours a day does not make you a superhero.  It does not make you indispensable or more valued.  So take your holidays with pride.  Leave at 5pm once in a while.  Take a break. Go for a walk at lunchtime.  Treat these things as non-negotiable, rather than nice to haves.  And encourage the same in those that work for you.

For everyone’s benefit – individual and organisation.



4 thoughts on “That holiday feeling

  1. Love this!
    Like you, I have never had a problem using up my holiday entitlement!

    I did once get into a very bad habit of working very long hours. I had a new role and staff that worked shifts starting at 7.30am and finishing at 9.00pm. I had a notion that I would flex my hours so that during the week, everyone saw me more than once. But what happened was I ended up doing 12 hour days. I enjoyed the work, I loved the team, but it became a sort of mini addiction. A FOMO perhaps getting me in the grip

    One day someone who was doing a 1-9 shift asked me why I was always there until 7/8. I remember her bluntly telling me it was a habit nothing else, and challenging me to leave at 5.00pm the next night. Yikes, I couldn’t! She was right. I had a habit to which I was getting unhealthily attached. I left at 6.30 one night, and felt at a loose end at home, and realised, this was not good.

    I broke the habit quite quickly (allowing myself two days each week to linger) and learned from that. Over the years when I have asked others – “I wonder – is it a habit” – there has been many looks of recognition.

    • Me too! I don’t have a problem using my holiday entitlement, working flexibly & using mobile to work more productively these days, but that’s still not the case for everyone and lots of people equate being at their desk with being productive.

      I always try to remember ‘Parkinson’s Law’ “Work expands to fill the time available” if I find myself faffing it’s usually a sign to take a break!

      Thanks for the blog 🙂

  2. Excellent stuff, all of which is true from an HR perspective, Gem, but, from a CFO point of view if someone never takes holiday then one must be alert to the possibility that they are doing it because they are hiding a fraud.

  3. My late father-in-law solved this problem while an RAF station commander – he fined crew who didn’t take their leave entitlement. Wasn’t ever an issue after that!

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