Regardless if you and your entire team are considered workaholics, it’s just not possible for anyone to be “on” 24/7. That doesn’t mean that you’re not hard-working, passionate, or motivated. It means that everyone needs to have time away from work. You can become stressed and burned out, which is never good for creativity and productivity. Establish time-off schedules to keep teammates refreshed.
How can you encourage everyone within your organization to take that much-needed time-off? Start by establishing time-off schedules by using the following techniques.
No email after-hours.
“Because of technology, it’s become very easy for people to be pushed to do their jobs 24 hours a day,” said New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr., “and employees should have the right without fear of retribution to draw a clear line as to whether they want to work during their personal time.”
This situation of continual work has lead to Espinal introducing a measure in New York that would make it illegal for businesses with at least 10 employees to force their workers to check or answer emails, texts, or phone calls when they’re off the clock.
France and Germany have introduced similar measures in the past. And while this law wouldn’t necessarily mean that employees would stop checking work-related messages when they’re not in the workplace, it has highlighted the fact that we all need more work-life balance. As a leader, set an example by not contacting your team members when they’re not on-the-clock unless it’s a life or death situation. The protocol means that during the weekend or when an employee is on vacation, or even late-at-night throughout the week — you should not contact them.
If you do have something important to tell your team you can always write a note to yourself or save the email as a draft and send it to them in the morning so that you won’t forget. Adhering to this rule of no-contact is a simple and effective way to encourage your team not to worry about work during their off-hours.
Encourage breaks and vacation.
According to the most recent research from Project: Time Off, American vacation usage is at its highest in seven years. While that’s promising, the survey also found that work-related challenges still have the most influence on our ability to vacation. As noted in the Project: Time Off report:
“Employees who concerned that taking vacation would make them appear less dedicated or replaceable were dramatically less likely to use all their vacation time (61percent leave time unused, compared to 52 percent overall). This rule of no vacation time has held true for those who felt their workload was too heavy (57 percent to 52 percent) and no one else could do their job (56 percent to 52 percent).”
If your team is frightened by the idea of skipping out-of-town, start small. Encourage your employees to take breaks throughout the day. Challenge them to go out for lunch, talk a walk outside, or provide a quiet space where they can meditate, nap, or reflect.
If you want to relieve stress and boost your productivity, this is a great place to start since it clears your head and gives you a chance to catch your breath.
Eventually, you can encourage your team actually to use their vacation time by:
- Setting an example and taking vacation days yourself.
- Making vacation days possible by creating a culture where team members will fill in for colleagues when they’re away. You can encourage team participation with each other’s jobs by having employees find their own substitutes or create an availability chart.
- Staggering vacation times so that no more than two of your crucial player’s are away at the same time. I would create a shared calendar where each team member can see when others have requested vacation time to prevent overlapping.
- Celebrating vacation time. For example, once a month have team members share photos and stories of their recent trip during downtime.
- Creating a spontaneous holiday. Let’s say that your team isn’t taking time off or are getting stressed, surprise your team with an unexpected holiday by shutting down the office on a Friday so that there’s a three-day weekend.
- Reminding your team about the benefits of taking vacations, such as keeping them healthy and energetic.
Schedule around life.
The sooner you realize that you must schedule your life around your work, the better you and your team will be in the long run. You and your team have a life outside of work. If you have to get your car repaired or an employee needs a root canal — someone will not have to think they could lose their job if they take care of themselves. When it’s summer, the kids have off school — so someone has to be on-call to help with activities on occasion.
You’ll need to have a flexible schedule. Maybe allow employees to work from home twice a week or enable them to come into the office either earlier or later. This way, they can take care of their priorities away from work without using sick/vacation time.
Have your team determine their peak productivity hours.
If you get to know your team, you’ll discover that there’s a mix of “morning people and “night owls.” This means that there are several peak productivity hours within your organization. Ask your team to track when they’re most focused and productive in the day. Once they find this out, encourage team members to do their most important work during their peak productivity hours — and make sure that you don’t bother them during this.
Also, allow them to take time off or work on less critical tasks during the hours when they’re not as productive.
Allow team members to work remotely.
Remote work isn’t precisely “time off,” but it’s still beneficial for both you and your team. Working out of the office occasionally relieves stress. Allow your team to work remotely on days of their choosing. If an employee has a choice of days off, they can avoid commuting daily, schedule their days around their personal lives. The team members can work in a location where they’re more productive like a local coffee shop.
If there are positions that require an office presence, then consider a 9/80 or a 4/10 work schedule.
Lighten your business calendar.
There are reasonable times throughout the year when things aren’t as hectic — such as during the summer. During these slower times of the year don’t pack your business calendar as much. You can start by cutting back on meetings or closing the office on Fridays. You also should take this time to focus on less critical tasks that have been pushed aside during the busier months, such as business development or revamping your marketing strategy.
The majority of meetings are a waste of time. They either have no purpose, drag-on longer than they should, or include people who shouldn’t even be there. As a result, your team wastes an hour of their day. That’s the time that could have been spent on their work so they could have left the office an hour earlier. Even worse, they had to reschedule a doctor’s appointment because the meeting was “mandatory.”
Thanks to technology, such as project management and automation, the days of mandatory meetings are over. The essential meetings are no longer vital because everyone knows exactly what’s going on within your organization in real-time. In other words, it’s time to rethink your approach to meetings. When you have fewer meetings, your team has more to get their priorities during business hours.
If you do have to schedule a meeting, make sure that you keep it concise. Also, be sure to only invite essential team members. You may also want to consider a walking meeting or lunch meetings instead of scheduling a meeting during a block of time when your team is focused on work.
Change your vocabulary.
Finally, it’s time to ditch terms like “bereavement” or “sick” time — or worse “mental health day.” The reason? It makes employees uncomfortable asking to take a “sick” day; when they have to take their dog to the vet or wait for the plumber to fix their kitchen sink. Other times, they don’t want to disclose why they’re asking for time off. This includes when visiting a doctor or mourning the loss of a loved one.
Instead, begin to use friendly terms like “flexible” and “personal”. These types of terms make people feel like they have permission for taking time off without sharing too much information.
John Hall is the co-founder of Calendar a scheduling and time management app. He’s also a keynote speaker that you can book at http://www.johnhallspeaking.com.