Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vacations Increase Productivity

It is the new year.  Everyone should be making a resolution to take more vacation time. 

Vacations are essential for your physical and mental well-being.  Anyone who thinks to the contrary is doing themselves, their clients and their employers and the people who work for them a significant disservice.

I recently interviewed a successful, well-placed executive, an EVP at one of the big agencies.  He confessed to me that he was too busy to take a vacation and had not taken any more than a couple of three or four day weekends in the past six or seven years.  He told me his accounts were too busy and his clients would not permit it.  He did not realize that I was questioning whether this was someone I would want to represent.  I asked him if his clients took vacations and he told me that was besides the point because, after all,  he was a supplier.  I asked him about the staffing beneath him.  He was very well staffed but felt he was indispensable.

No one is indispensable.

First of all, if he is so indispensable that his staff cannot cover for him, he either has the wrong people working for him or he is a poor manager.  It should be every manager's goal to be able to be out for a while and to know that the day-to-day business is covered.  Second, no one who he works for or with really cares if he takes a vacation (although I bet some of the people who work for him would love him out of their hair). Promotions are a reward for good and efficient work, not for staying in the office.  Undoubtedly, this person's boss takes vacations.   Most good managers encourage their people to rest and take time off.

Among busy people, there is never a good time for a vacation.  However, maturity teaches that there is always another meeting, always another presentation, always another production.  The thing is, you just have to announce that you are taking time off and then you have to do it, no matter what.  One of the great ironies, and every one of us knows this:  If you make a status report for yourself before you take some time off, when you return, when you look at the status, most projects will be pretty much where you left them.  Things just don’t change that much in a week or two.

Besides that, every good executive is or should be in touch with their office during vacation.  These days with Blackberries and worldwide phones, it is easy to be in touch with the office while relaxing. (I am always leery when I get auto-responses to emails or voice mails that say people will be completely out of touch.  It is very un-executive like.)

One of the benefits of vacations is productivity.  We all also know that some of our best ideas happen when we are in the shower, when we are on our way to or from work or even in the middle of the night.  This has something to do with beta waves or some such complicated explanation.  The truth is that ideas come when we are relaxed, often when we are not directly thinking about the issues.

Taking a long weekend here or there is good and necessary for people who work twelve and fourteen hour days routinely.  Taking a week or two is better. If you have good ideas in the shower, you will have great ideas sitting on the beach, going to museums or eating at a great bistro in Paris.  I have always observed that when I return after a week or so off, I become a much more efficient and creative recruiter.  The first week or so after I return is always good for my business.

The French are not crazy when they shut down business in August and everyone takes off.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're spot on here, Paul. Vacations were created for a reason. And a valuable one at that, for the reasons you mention. Moreover, unless this guy is Steve Jobs himself, it's pretty narcissistic to think that a business can't manage in your absence. Especially in an ad agency. Rob


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