Empowering Core Leaders to take time off when the world doesn’t feel like it is stopping

It is hard to believe that it is almost August, as schools, parents, and universities across the country are gearing up for a different kind of school year.


Whether essential workers who have continued to report tirelessly to the job, or those who have worked virtually, it may feel like work truly has not stopped at all over the last four months. During this time, it can be easy for leaders and their teams to say – “I’ll just keep working,” or “I was planning a vacation but we cancelled that for this year.”

Truth be told, it can feel that way in our world even without a global pandemic due to the fact that our phones (and therefore our emails, texts, and instant messages) are never out of sight.  We all know that it is important to take time off. But are we truly ensuring that our leaders and teams are doing this?

Here are three quick questions to ask yourself and your organization to ensure you are truly supporting leaders and their teams to take time for themselves and step away from work.

1) Are you as a Leader modeling the behavior for the culture you want to create?

If you tell people to “absolutely take your vacation time,” but send emails expecting a reply during their time off, what is the message you are truly sending? Have you scheduled your own time away? Do you plan with your team for time off and who will be covering? Are out of office messages clear on who to contact? Making sure to clearly communicate standards around time off, reinforcing that it is a benefit they need to take, and planning for someone to be out, is part of being a team.

2) Do you allow certain Core Leaders to be “over achievers” to the detriment of themselves, their team, and the organization?

It is completely understandable that there may be a critical project with some critical deadlines. People may have to delay time off, but should never forgo it. If your organization has an individual who MUST always be available, then you may need to look at the talent pipeline and develop their team members. Burnout is a VERY real consequence of never taking a break. When you look across your Core Leaders, are there ones who never allow themselves to step away? This is an important discussion to have with them.

3) Are you reminding your leaders of the importance of stepping away completely from work, and how that can benefit them and the organization?

Time away not only gives leaders and their teams an important respite, but can provide renewed perspectives when they return.

Project: Time Off, a research group in Washington D.C, found in their 2018 survey of 4000 people that “employees who reported that their company encourages vacation (68 percent) are much happier with their jobs than those who work at places where either vacation is discouraged or managers are ambivalent about taking time off (42 percent).”

Keeping employees engaged and productive is every leader’s job. So…how are you taking time away this summer?