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Take a break

User Avatar Blogger . 22/07/2010 09:45:35
Take a break - blog

By Dr Pat Tissington, Associate Dean Business Partnerships, Aston Business School

With the school holidays fast approaching, it is now the time that we think about taking time off. And we should - even though the idea of having time when you aren't actually at work and still being paid for it, is a concept our great grandparents would have not understood at all. But should we take holidays - and should managers encourage their staff to do so? I always insist any staff reporting to me take their full allocation - and this even back when I was personally paying their wages out of my own money. Why? The business case for doing so is even more persuasive than the pretty good moral one.

When I was running my own business, I was completely reliant on the ingenuity, intelligence and hard work of my team. In a way nothing has changed because of course I still am reliant on my team and colleagues, but I no longer physically write the cheques. So if they are not in the office, they are not productive? No. They can take their Blackberries with them and I can contact them from time to time when on holiday. Absolutely not! If someone is on holiday, that means no contact what ever - the only exception would be a major fatality but perhaps the readers would have other exceptions they might suggest?

My view is that if you are doing your job properly, you should have planned sufficiently well to be able to cope whilst someone is away. You should also be organised enough so you work the hours you are contracted and no more - more on this topic another time. Time away (completely away) from work gives you time to re-charge, to re-set yourself and potentially start afresh. It is amazing how different things can look if you genuinely come to them after putting them to aside for a while. I recommend my students finish their essays at least a week before they are due, put them to one side and them only come back to them having left them for several days. My experience is that often you can see glaring flaws which were invisible when deeply engrossed.

But you should plan for holidays - for yourself and your team. Make sure it is factored into project timelines, targets and that you have sufficient cover. It is completely pointless allowing someone holiday but not covering their work because if they will come back after holiday and essentially have to make up for the "lost" week or two. This is not a holiday. It is theft of your staff's time and shows a lack of planning and consideration. This sort of thing has a disastrous effect on motivation and therefore productivity. The best out of office email I ever saw said "I am out of the office until xxxx, when I return I will delete all emails so if your message is urgent, please re-send it after that day." When I tried it, how many emails were re-sent? One - and this was only to say "sorry for disturbing you whilst on holiday, the issue has been dealt with and I hope you had a nice time." I also got a complaint but this was only from a colleague who seemed to think I should be available to him 24/7. Sorry, but I try to be better organised than that.

So, my rules of holidays:

- insist your staff take all of their holiday
- take most of yours
- plan for it so there isn't a mountain of emails and a backlog of tasks when they return
- do not look at email or check voicemail when on holiday
- in fact, buy a cheap pay as you go phone ( you can get them for about a fiver these days) and leave your work mobile switched off and at home

Now for two cautionary tales about Blackberries. A very high flying business person I know went on holiday to a smart hotel somewhere very warm. On the first day, her daughter threw the Blackberry in the swimming pool. Surely the sign of spending too much time on mobile email. The second is similar but perhaps more heartbreaking. I have a friend whose small son used to take it very seriously when he was given a wish - the sort of thing you get when cutting a birthday cake. His wish was always the same: please take daddy's phone away.

Happy holidays!

This post first appeared on Dr Pat Tissington's blog for the Birmingham Post on 20 July 2010

To read further blogs please visit the Birmingham Post's Business Blog

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