A few weeks ago, we used our all-hands Monday morning meeting as an opportunity to discuss the definition of a “warrior”. We linked the characteristics of a warrior to those of a resilient leader.
Among the great “warrior” characteristics shared by our team, a few stood out:
- A warrior is always ready for the fight ahead. They are prepared.
- A warrior is ready for the fight because they know how and when to recover.
If you’re like me, when you think of a warrior, you think of a high-performance athlete. Those individuals have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of performance and resiliency. However, a closer look at the world of sports paints a dismal picture about rest and recovery.
In the NFL, 2020 represented their highest injury rate ever. The NBA now loses a star player to a long-term injury on a weekly basis. The NHL has long been scrutinized for its lack of disclosure regarding injuries. But anecdotally, their injury problem is getting worse not better.
What’s the common thread between these leagues and the spike in injuries? The answer is simple: a shorter off-season due to COVID.
Condensing the off-season meant two things for the players:
- Less time to prepare for the upcoming season.
- Less time to recover from the past season.
In short, when given less time to rest, recover, and prepare, injuries rose, and performance declined.
These findings can be applied to the corporate world. When it comes to exhaustion in the workplace, the writing is on the wall.
Pre-pandemic, over 40% of people reported feeling burned out at work. In the ensuing months, that number has jumped to over 70% 1. Rates of depression, anxiety, and detachment are skyrocketing.
As businesses begin their “return to normal” many people are being asked to do more, not less.
“We need to make up for lost time.”
“Our strategy has been on pause, now we can get back to work.”
“With people back in the office, we can finally take on bigger projects.”
Variations of these calls to action are being uttered across workplaces throughout the country. Furthermore, they are being met with a resounding lack of enthusiasm.
The stark reality is that we have businesses to run. In this increasingly competitive environment, any downtime or interruption can have irreparable consequences.
That being said, we must recognize that performance is a factor of preparation and energy. When your teams are feeling burned out and behind the 8-ball you are fighting a losing battle, no matter how hard you push.
As leaders, it is your primary responsibility to prioritize the health and wellbeing of your teams. As a human being, it is your responsibility to recognize that you have a limited gas tank and that in order to show up as your best self, you must take the proper steps to rest and recover.
In our experience, “time off” is still a taboo subject. In this corporate culture that incentivizes results, it’s no wonder that many people feel reluctant to take time off and guilty when they do.
Luckily, we have pulled together a few tips and tricks to help get you out the door, unplugged, and recharged.
Don’t encourage your team to take time off. Insist.
At Ignite, we don’t have “available vacation days”. We have a mandatory vacation policy. That wasn’t a typo. If you are a part of the Ignite team, taking time off is mandatory.
We aren’t saying you must create a mandatory vacation policy, but we all must be cognizant of the power of our language.
Consider the following two conversation starters:
“Hey, you should think about taking some time off this summer.”
“You seem exhausted. Let’s find a week in the near future that you can book off. You’ve earned it. Our team is here to pick up the slack when you’re gone.”
One of those is more likely to lead to vacation planning.
As Canadians, we are known around the world for a handful of things: keeping the peace, backyard ice rinks, and relentlessly apologizing.
Far too often are people apologizing about taking time off.
“I’m sorry I can’t make that meeting, I’m taking that week off.”
Have you ever thought to yourself, “wow, that person has a lot of nerve taking a holiday”?
No, you haven’t. So get it out of your head that people will perceive your vacation that way.
Be bold. Be brave. Block off your calendar.
Take YOUR vacation.
“Oh you’re taking some time off? You HAVE to drive out to Banff.”
Sure, if you want to take a long road trip, do that. But don’t allow others to influence how you rest and recover.
Your time off is about one thing, and one thing only: you.
If your ideal vacation is drawing the blinds, ordering pizza, and binging Netflix, knock yourself out.
Also, don’t allow others to dictate your relationship with work throughout your vacation.
“You must absolutely turn off your emails and disconnect from work entirely.”
If it keeps your mind at ease to occasionally check emails, go for it. We have become addicted to work. Quitting cold turkey isn’t always the easiest or best option.
Share your story with pride.
Culture happens at the touchpoints. Be vocal about your time off. Stand on your soapbox and tell everyone how re-energized you are.
Your goal as an organization should be to create a culture that prioritizes health and wellbeing with an emphasis on proper recovery. A primary way to foster that culture is to share the benefits of taking vacation.
You may think it would come across as bothersome. Disregard that nagging voice. In fact, when people share stories about their time off, it only has one effect: “hmm, maybe I should book some time off.”
Be intentional with your appreciation.
Each vacation comes with a side effect: the impact it has on your team. This could take many forms. Meetings might be rescheduled. Your team may need to take on some of your work. Or deadlines may need to get pushed. Guess what, life goes on.
Remember, don’t apologize.
Also keep in mind that you don’t live or work in a vacuum. Before and after your time off, be deliberate about recognizing the impact your time away will have and show your appreciation for your team.
“I really appreciate you stepping in to take on this project while I was away. I’ll be sure to return the favour the next time you’re out of the office.”
A 2016 Harvard study found that you were 30% more likely to get a promotion if you took 11 or more days of vacation.2
Another study by Ernst & Young found that for every 10 hours of vacation time an employee took, their year-end performance rating was boosted by 8%.3
You don’t need more convincing. The facts are there. The stage is set. The world is re-opening. Go forth and relax.
If this article has inspired you to take time off, please reach out and share your story.
Author, Jordan Orr