A recent article from the Globe that hits the nail on the head for how difficult I found it to take three months off from my job this year. While this author is not proud of the fact that she worked on July 1st this year, I am even less proud of the fact that my three months of leave was largely made up of vacation left on the table for the past few years. The reasons for this accumulation vary but one big reason is the amount of stress it caused me to take time off be it for vacation or other reasons.
While this article lays out many reasons for why taking vacation is stressful, I’d argue that none of them is really very good and offer my own rebuttals:
The onslaught of work on return is too much: A senior government manager who I know, used to (and may still) essentially delete her inbox en masse on her return from vacation. Draconian yes but her reasoning was legit: Someone has been paid to act in my place until I return. My email and phone clearly indicate who to contact in my absence. If someone really needs to speak to me personally, they will contact me again for action.
The burden on colleagues is too much: I prefer the logic that “I pull for you, you pull for me.” We cover each other for vacations and we all survive. Resentment over earned and predictable time off just doesn’t make sense. And even more than survive, we can thrive. Two senior advisors replaced me for approx. six weeks each as manager. They got the chance to be exposed to different files and a different perspective with commensurate pay. Lastly, I don’t buy the fact that someone can’t be effectively briefed to hold the fort on the majority of files for a brief absence.
The work routine is too deep seated: This is probably the one that is most concerning – I wonder what it says about us if you can’t let go of careening out of the house every day, working through lunch, skipping the gym to work more, taking work home etc.
A disturbing new definition of holiday is proposed in the article such as just limiting to long weekends or adopting a stance that there is no such thing as a day off because you’d work for a minimum of an hour each day no matter what.
As discussed elsewhere on this blog, we need vacation to be good workers. In addition, we know that our elder statesman would tell us that the one of the key things that they say at the end of their lives is that they wish that they had worked less.
For me, my time off gave me much needed perspective at the mid-point in my career. I was able to fully explore alternatives for my career on a scale that would not have been supported with full time work. I connected more deeply with my community and started volunteering at some community gardens. I conducted several information interviews with coaches and other consultants and received encouragement to continue advancing my desire to be a coach at the margins of my main career. Bottom line, I am returning to the work world more grounded and committed to another stretch in the pubic service.
To help guide me to the future, I’ve adopted some new routines and taken two go-forward mantras from The Art of Possibility: Rule number six (don’t take yourself so seriously) and it’s all invented, so have some fun with it.