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  • Kathleen Phelps

Leading When You Are Away From the Office

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“The breaks you take from work pay you back manifold when you return because you come back with a fresher mind and newer thinking. Some of your best ideas come when you’re on vacation.”

–Gautam Singhania


Summertime! Here in New England, along with our glee about warmer weather and longer days, we are also excited about realizing our daydreams of long, lazy weekends and carefree beach and lake vacations that got us  through one of our nastier winters.

Unfortunately, just underneath the excitement, there is anxiety about what will happen at work while people are away. The biggest concerns seem to be centered on falling behind, not being able to trust staff to get things done, and creating the perception that you are not as committed as you ‘should’ be.

Luckily, there is data to put your mind at ease on all fronts. And actually, that is what vacation is for – putting your mind at ease!

We All Need Tune Ups for our Brains

“Working all the time and getting things done might make you think you’re the king of the world. But your brain is feeling something completely different. Our brains don’t have a reserve pool to gather energy and power from. Vacations can help reset your mind,” says a Chicago Tribune article. Just like our technology, we all need regular re-boots.

According to an Oxford Economics survey, upon returning to work after taking time off, three-quarters of managers reported feeling recharged and refreshed, half said they were more focused and 41 percent said they felt less stressed.

The Organization WILL Run Without You

Many corporate leaders believe that they are the only ones who can make things happen (often an interesting mix of ego and martyrdom). What if we chose a different perspective and let ourselves be surprised to discover all of the good things that can happen in our absence? What if we use our time away to come back to our organizations with new eyes?

Time away is an opportunity to assess how well your organization is running, which can be hard to do when you are in it all of the time. Time away creates the opportunity to delegate projects and to let others lead. Upon your return you’ll have a better understanding of how well things are working, and where people need to be further developed. More importantly, you’ll show your staff and colleagues that you trust them to do good work, while giving them the chance to step up and shine.

If You Are Good at What You Do, Your Reputation Won’t Suffer

“Hard work and commitment sit at the top of every employer’s wish list”, therefore it is up to you to set your own boundaries around vacation and time off. Contrary to what some believe, there is often grudging respect for those who are willing to take a stand for the time off they need. In fact, those who don’t can be perceived as being less than confident about their value or worth – and if you are not sure, others won’t be either.

If you need further evidence that taking time off won’t impact your reputation, you’ll be heartened by an Ernst & Young survey that found that those who took more vacation time were getting consistently better grades on their performance assessment at the end of the year.

Your Best Ideas are Only a Hammock Away

I envision a world where we take more time for ourselves, our families, and our communities, not less. Where we follow our own rhythms and flow, where we tap into the creativity and insight that is only available to us as our minds and bodies rest, not because we are not committed to our work… but because we are.


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