It might be hard to believe, but we’re in the middle of an all-out war on vacation.
It’s no secret that Americans work longer hours than much of the industrialized world – a fact that many take as a point of pride. The problem is, clocking more hours isn’t necessarily a boon to productivity.
In fact, it can be the exact opposite.
Entrepreneurs are particularly bad at recognizing when they should step back for a while and recharge their batteries. The why is obvious – it’s definitely hard work building a new business from scratch. However, science and common sense have conspired to encourage even the most passionate entrepreneur to take some time for themselves once in a while. Here’s why.
The science of ‘taking a break’ is irrefutable
In 2013, the Sage Reinvention of Small Business Study found that some 43 percent of entrepreneurs are taking less vacation time than they did five years ago.
Another broader survey reports 42 percent of all Americans didn’t take a vacation at all in 2014. Science confirms this is a problem.
The relationship between long hours and heart disease is well-documented, leading to a strong correlation between prolonged stress and poor health. Simply put, staying at the office from the break of dawn until after the sun sets could literally be shortening your life. It’s time to take a break.
It’s not just about your physical health. Your mental and cognitive health will also feel the effects of long hours on a daily basis. Emerging science says the human brain does some of its best work when it’s idle. Vacation, it turns out, could give your inspiration a much-needed kick in the pants!
Give your entrepreneurial brain a break
There’s a reason why health experts prescribe a minimum seven to eight hours of sleep every night: It’s because the human brain needs some downtime to function at peak efficiency. Without this kind of reprieve, our ability to focus, think clearly and come up with creative solutions to our problems can be significantly impaired.
Scientific American spells it out pretty clearly: “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.”
It’s that last point that’s particularly interesting.
If you’ve felt like your short-term recall might be suffering, it might not just be the effects of old age – you might simply need to give your brain a break. The solution is easy: Step away from your work and take some time to unwind. Your business will still be waiting for you when you get back.
Is your team equipped to function without you?
Among the many reasons why entrepreneurs don’t like to take vacations is because they fear what might happen if they leave a leadership vacuum. It’s true that entrepreneurs need to guide the scope and execution of their company’s mission, but some make the mistake of assuming the team can’t function without their presence.
It’s true that any effective business leader is responsible for motivating and empowering employees, but it’s also true that your team can’t come into their own if you’re always around.
See what happens at the office if you step away for a much-needed vacation. You’re probably (hopefully) going to be pleasantly surprised by what happens in your absence.
Certain team members will likely become more proactive and decisive, and their development as productive employees could blossom. This not only helps your team flex their creative muscles and become more self-sufficient, but it also has the added benefit of putting your delegation skills to the test. Everybody wins!
All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl
Stephen King references aside, you have a responsibility to your team members to lead by example. When you take some time for yourself, you’re sending them a message that life is about more than working until exhaustion every single day.
We talk a lot about work-life balance in this country, but the evidence seems to suggest that we don’t really take it that seriously. Part of the reason for this is because entrepreneurs and the C-Suite tend to work themselves too hard – and that sets a dangerous precedence for the rest of the company culture.
In other words, it’s one thing to say your company understands the value of a balanced life, but it’s quite another to put that wisdom into practice. So set a good example.
Take time away from the office to recharge or ease into it with a worcation. Exhibit a strong dedication to health and wellness, and see what happens to company morale when the rest of the company follows your lead.
Of course, just as important – and possibly more so – is making sure your employees have the opportunity to follow your lead. We live in a world where technology does quite a lot of the heavy lifting for us, so we owe our employees the means to take time away from the office.
It means reasonable paid-time-off policies, for a start, and it mean recognizing the emerging consensus on family leave. At the end of the day, the war on vacation in America can only be solved if we work from the top down. New businesses and scrappy startups are the lifeblood of this country, and employ more people than corporations. See what happens when you commit to a healthy work-life balance from day one.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Savannah Flynn is a public relations specialist and online marketing enthusiast writing on behalf of WebpageFX. She is devoted to staying on top of the latest online marketing, social media and public relations trends. Connect with @WebpageFX on Twitter.
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