The power of a planned vacation

The benefits of time away from work go beyond simply ‘recharging the batteries.’
by Sandra Wiley

Research has shown that workers are more productive and less stressed when they take regular vacations. And a sometimes-forgotten part of taking a vacation, if you spend it with a friend, significant other, or family: You’re having a shared experience that helps to grow that relationship.

Yet plenty of finance professionals don’t take their allotted vacation. Some even take pride in not taking a break.

I often hear people say they are supposed to be scheduling vacation days or they wish they could take some days off, but they’re too busy. Sometimes, I’ll hear managers boast about not taking time off. “I always lose my vacation time at the end of the year,” they’ll say, “because I never take it all.”

Not everyone wants to, or has the means to, take a trip. But that doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t take time away from work. Here are a few thoughts on the benefits of vacations for employees and employers:

  • Succession and career planning. Succession is a big deal these days. Especially if you are in the last third of your life, you might be interested to know that taking more vacations could make you live longer. Research by professors from the University of Pittsburgh and the State University of New York–Oswego tied more frequent vacations to a reduced risk for heart disease. The key phrase in the research: “Vacationing may be good for your health.” It will be difficult to reach career goals if your career is waylaid by health problems 10 or 15 years before your planned retirement.
  • Unplug to beat stress. Stress is another topic that pops up in conversations with finance leaders. Our profession is full of deadlines, tough technical work, sometimes-cranky clients, and pressure to do more work with less. In a recent seminar, Shannon Waller of Strategic Coach spoke about how we can guard against stress and be more productive by taking full days away. These must be 24-hour periods with no work. No computer, no cellphone, no client calls. It allows us to relax, and when we return, we are ready to really dig in again.
  • Planning matters. Vacation, staycation, or just a long weekend—they will all work, but you have to plan and pay for time away. People are more likely to take vacation if they plan the days, put them on their calendars, and pay for the trip ahead of time. If you don’t have anything planned, you will be more likely to head back to the computer, but if you have something planned and you have written the check, you are more likely to follow through on your commitment to take time off.
  • Fraud deterrence. Companies that require workers to take time away from the office can help to prevent fraud. A worker engaged in fraud might fear detection while someone else performs his or her duties, so that worker might resist taking a vacation. Mandatory time off can be a deterrent for fraudsters.

Sandra Wiley is the COO of  Boomer Consulting  in Manhattan, Kan., and is a speaker on topics such as team building, talent development, and performance improvement.

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