Why Not Taking Holidays May Be Damaging Your Career, Health & Business
Did my headline get your attention? I thought a lot about how I would engage your heart and mind in this week’s blog post, so thank you for tuning in and deciding to read on. I’d like to explore with you the importance of taking regular breaks and the reasons why this is good for your career, health and business.
I believe a person’s appetite for planning regular holidays and taking short breaks over long weekends is strongly influenced by their parent’s approach to taking holidays when they were part of the family’s holiday plans. Growing up, we had regular holidays as a family, including visits to relatives in country NSW or Victoria, camping trips across the state and the occasional flight to Queensland. My parents made holidays a priority, and this is a tradition I have continued with my family.
My husband, Sasha, had a different upbringing. With immigrant parents it was hard work and making a life of yourself that were the main event in his household. His parents worked hard and played hard, and at the ripe old age of 80 and 76, continue to remain extremely active. In retirement they have taken regular holidays.
Over time, Sasha has also embraced the idea of going on a holiday and, thankfully, is instrumental in making our camping trips run smoothly. We would not enjoy the adventures we do if it wasn’t for the equipment he has set up whenever we go ‘glamping’.
I’m always intrigued when people make the observation that ‘you guys go away a lot’. Yes, we do, because we both run our own businesses and choose to lead very active lives, and the only way we can sustain operating at this level is to take regular breaks. After one day camping in Wilsons Promontory recently, I heard Sasha say “I can feel my blood pressure dropping”.
Time away in nature, away from our normal routine and children’s sporting commitments is time well spent and bonds us as a family unit. Importantly, we do not always travel together and Sasha has enjoyed skiing trips with his brother and nephews in Japan, and enjoyed a road trip (with our boys) to the Fink desert race while I went to Paris and the Amalfi Coast (pictured above) with a girlfriend.
Holiday Planning and Effective Time Management
Whenever I explore the topic of time management with some of my business coaching clients, I suggest that their holiday plan should be the first thing they map out each year. While this is a new concept for some, many clients I work with acknowledge their need to take a short break from the busyness of their work and home lives and value taking regular country / interstate retreats or 1-2 overnight stays at CBD hotels. By prioritising taking a break, it gives you a regular event to look forward to, where the pace is perhaps slower or different. By allowing yourself to depart from your normal routine, slow down and get away from the busyness of life and your work schedule, you are creating space for your mind and your soul to reflect and process. And for introverts and ambiverts, this is essential to recharge. Read more here about my ambivert journey.
The Career Case for Taking Holidays
When career coaching clients have chosen a redundancy, I suggest they think seriously about taking a break and enjoying a change of scenery before embarking on their next career move. I have been thanked on many occasions by people who chose to take my advice, and invest reflection time to take a road trip, visit an interstate or overseas relative or book a trip to an exotic location that had been on their bucket list for years. While I understand it is tempting to allocate your redundancy payment solely to helping pay off your home loan or debts, it’ is worth considering investing some of it in yourself too.
The Business Case for Taking Holidays
In this Business Insider Australia article Rachel Gillett explores the 3 reasons companies like LinkedIn, Virgin, and Netflix are giving their employees ‘unlimited’ vacation. While it was certainly seen as a good public relations exercise when Netflix, followed by Virgin, announced that some of their employees could take unlimited annual leave, there are also benefits for the employer. Gillett makes the important point that for organisations to employ 1000s of staff, one of their biggest ongoing liabilities is “accrued vacation and other employee-related expenses.”
When I managed a team in my leadership role at Diageo Australia, one of my team members had accrued over 9 weeks annual leave. I was instructed by the Human Resource department to strongly encourage her to take this leave. I was advised that having too much annual leave accrued, and not taking the allocated 4 weeks each year was also viewed as a workplace safety risk. Employees need to take regular breaks.
In this article from Macquarie Bank a strong business case is made for owners, director and leaders of businesses to take a break. Glen Peterson, Director at LJ Hooker Commercial Parramatta and Blacktown says “Big problems don’t get solved while you’re busy running the day-to-day of your business. You need to take time to reflect and learn. He believes “Holidays give you great thinking time, allowing you to free your mind of the smaller day-to-day operational details, phone calls and emails so you can reflect on some of the bigger issues you’re dealing with.” I agree.
The article references a 2006 Ernst & Young research study where the firm found that, “for every extra 10 hours of holiday its employees took, average annual performance ratings rose 8%.” It seems that not only are you more productive after a break, holidays can also make you more focused in the lead up because you have a deadline to work to.
The Health Case for Taking Holidays
In this article from Psychology Today, Dr Cynthia Thaik references a number of key studies, including the famous Framingham Heart Study, the long-term ongoing cardiovascular study that began in 1948 to analyse adult subjects who were at risk of heart disease. If you google the case for holidays, you will see this study consistently referenced. Cynthia writes that “when the study looked at the effects of vacations from following subjects over a nine-year period they found a positive correlation between more frequent vacations and longer healthier lives”.
This study also reported that men who skipped vacation for several years were 30% more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took a vacation at least one week a year. Interestingly, the study reported that skipping even 1 year’s annual leave can be associated with increased risk of heart disease. So there’s the powerful argument for a holiday, just in case you needed one!
How to Approach Holiday Planning
Depending on what your budget will allow, whether you run a business or work for an employer, I recommend blending a mix of investing time in going away on long weekends (either with the family or on your own), taking more extended holidays to favourite, or bucket list, destinations can be just the thing to help you engage in more leisure activities, clear your mind, give you some rest and time with loved ones and generally help you recharge.
I try to take one substantial holiday a year and make the most of every public holiday to take an extended break. My husband and children enjoy camping, so this is a cost effective way to take a regular break without spending too much money. I’m told not everyone likes to camp, and it does take some effort to co-ordinate, so cabins are a good option too!
If you’re wanting to prioritise planning holidays and find the career, business and health reasons I have mentioned compelling, then here are 5 key steps in making a holiday plan work for you.
1. Make a list of desired destinations
Every 2-3 years I make a list of all the travel adventures I’d like to go on. Some destinations are within the state, related to friend’s and family’s milestones birthdays, and others are regular destinations we enjoy visiting.
2. Create ‘holidays’ as a category in your diary
Until using gmail and google calendar, I colour coded each segment of my life in my iCalendar and included work, holidays, children, and myself as separate coloured segments. Mapping out my calendar in this way gave me a great visual representation of my week, month and year. Whatever diary system you use, I do encourage you to map out the holidays you’d like to take well in advance of taking them, especially if you want to work with a travel agent to get the best deals on airfares when travelling to overseas destinations.
3. Insert all the public holidays in your calendar
At the start of each year I find the list of all the public holidays and insert this in my calendar in the holiday category. If they are attached to a weekend, or close to a weekend, I block out the 3-4 days as a holiday, and we often attach an extra day on either side to make the most of this break. If you have children, scheduling the school holiday breaks are a must and can sometimes be the logical time to take a break.
4. Match your destinations to your holiday schedule
Once I have my list of desired destinations and know the public and school holidays for the year ahead, I then match my destinations to the spaces for holidays. I’ve always got more holiday destinations than my schedule will allow for, so these are parked for the following year’s plan when I allocate them to the school and public holidays.
5. Decide who to holiday with
The final (and probably most important step) is deciding who is going to join you on these adventures. While I mostly holiday with my family, I also enjoy taking a break on my own. Soon after my 40th birthday, I travelled with a girlfriend to Paris, the Amalfi Coast and Rome. It was lovely to have this time to “step off my life” and reflect on this milestone birthday. It was when I was first approved to publish on LinkedIn (when LinkedIn articles were the domain of LinkedIn Influencers and authorised publishers only) and so I wrote this article (my first published LinkedIn article), reflecting on people’s reactions to me taking this trip without my family.
At the same time that I was enjoying France and Italy, my husband took our boys on a road trip with the father of my travelling partner and one of their sons through the centre of Australia. We all fondly talk about these adventures and look forward to more holidays, together and apart.
What are your plans for taking a break either with your loved ones or alone?