In The News
How To Make The Most Of Your Time Off Work


Financial Post - July 6, 2005 - Ceridian Canada

Wrapping up that last project before heading off on vacation - and then not thinking about it while you are away - can often seem like an impossible task. Although vacations are a time to relax and reduce stress, many workers have a hard time leaving the office behind. This is especially true for small business owners who have few resources to help carry the workload in their absence.

Here is a list of strategies that can help reduce vacation-related stress - while also reducing the risk of post-vacation blues. They should also help you get the most out of your summer vacation:

1. It is important to have a feeling of completion and closure when leaving work before a holiday. Try to tie off as many loose ends as you can to accomplish this feeling.

2. On your last day of work before a vacation, organize a "to do" list that will be ready for your return. This will help you feel relaxed on your holiday and help you feel organized when you return, even if you are back at work in body only, and not in spirit.

3. Don't wait until you are exhausted or feeling burned out to schedule a vacation. Plan regular vacation time and remember to use your yearly vacation accrual. We all require time to recharge, particularly when we have stressful work situations and family challenges. In fact, some organizations are now requiring employees to take their vacation entitlement yearly.

4. If you must be in contact with work while away, restrict the time, day and opportunity. Do not say, "I am available at any time if you need me." By making yourself available all the time, you will be diminishing the benefit of the break.

5. Set realistic expectations for a successful vacation. Try "I am looking forward to sleeping in," not, "This is going to be the best vacation ever."

6. If possible, plan at least one day before and one day after returning from holiday to allow for transition time and to allow you to prepare for the holiday or to ease back into your routine without an abrupt change.

7. Try to practice being in the present while away. Avoid thinking about responsibilities, tasks or concerns that await back at the office.

8. If possible, go through your e-mails and voicemails on the transition day before you return to work to avoid feeling bombarded when you actually get back to the office.

9. Spontaneous or last-minute holidays don't create opportunity for anticipation and excitement. It is best to plan ahead so you can reap all of the benefits from your vacation.

10. Start thinking about your next vacation when you return. It is important to have something to look forward to to avoid the "post-vacation blues".

23% of Canadians cannot find the time to relax

Take Time Off, Eh!!

By Suzanne Wintrob - Financial Post - July 6, 2005


Nathan Rosenberg believes taking a vacation from work is good for the soul. In fact, the chief marketing officer at Virgin Mobile, who moved to Toronto from his native Australia a year ago, wishes more people in his new home would relax a bit more.


Thankfully for Mr. Rosenberg, Virgin Mobile is heeding his call. The company which launched service in Canada in March, offers all of its 100 employees four weeks of vacation time. A no-contact policy goes into effect during that time off: Those in the office are banned from calling the vacationer’s mobile phone and they must keep e-mails to a minimum. On the odd chance that someone does call into the office during their vacation and ask how things are going, those left behind try not to raise any alarms. If any employee doesn’t take enough days off, managers try to figure out why, and then teach the employee how to find the time.


“Because we’re a UK-based organization, culturally, we have a very different approach,” says Mr. Rosenberg, who recently spent two weeks back home in Sydney and was thrilled that his BlackBerry did not work overseas. “We encourage people to work hard while they’re at work, but we also make sure they make time for really relaxing.”


If all Canadians thought like that, we would certainly be a more tranquil bunch. According to an Expedia global study conducted by Ipsos Reid in Canada and Harris Interactive in the United State, Canadians are vacation-deprived. Most Canadians get 21 vacation days per year, well behind France with 39 days and Germany with 27. Employees in the Netherlands get 25 days, while Great Britain is slightly ahead of Canada with 23 days. Still, Canadians are ahead of workers in the U.S., where 12 days of vacation is the norm.


Although 54% of those polled say they return from a vacation feeling better about their job and much more productive, 23% reported they had cancelled or postponed a vacation due to work obligations. In fact, many employees forgo three days – or 40 million days collectively – because they cannot find the time to relax.


Beverly Beuermann-King, a stress and wellness specialist from Little Britain, Ont., says Canadian workers are stressed out from the constant demand on their time and are canceling vacations because of workplace obligations. That, she warns, is a red flag.


“Anybody in a job that’s high-demand, low-reward, low-control and high-effort has a greater risk due to stress,” she says. “We see more back pain, more gastrointestinal problems, more risk of cancer, accidents, depression. It’s critical for them to be taking that time off. It doesn’t matter if it’s a manager or a leader or an employee at non-management level. It’s just as important to take that time off.”


Unfortunately, she says, many people just have no idea how to take a vacation and so it is up to managers to teach them how. At Virgin Mobile, for example, managers regularly sit down with employees and help them plan out their workload to allow for vacation time.


“You always think the organization can’t live without you,” Mr. Rosenberg says with a laugh. “I certainly think that way. But when I got back (from Australia) I realized the world continued on without me and seemed to have been just fine, when I’d like to believe that it wasn’t.”


Executive coach Paul Litwack, who calls himself The Capability Improvement Coach, has come across so many professionals looking for ways to get their life under control that he runs a series of teambuilding and corporate strategy workshops by telephone.


One workshop, entitled Juggling Multiple Priorities, evolved from clients saying they had no time to take a break. In it he touts “the 95-5 strategy” – 95% of our time is about problems, anxiety and panic while the other 5% is about enthusiasm, passion, trust, dignity and respect. It’s all a matter of choice, he says, and learning to dip into the 5% side more often helps us “have enough energy at the end of the day to live our lives the way we want to.” Organization is key, he adds, and that is where a good manager can help.


“If you want to be more promotable, then you need to work with your staff so you can get away more,” he explains. “The reason many people don’t take vacation? You have all the excuses: ‘I can’t  trust my people; They’re not good enough; They might make mistakes.’ Plan better. Help them, train them, grow them, and give them guidelines on what decisions they can make better. That can be as simple as one a day rather than a whole bunch all at one time.”


If two weks away sounds too daunting, Mr. Litwack suggests starting small. Take a five minute mini break by becoming more productive in the office, he says. Tell co-workers not to interrupt you if your door is closed, he says, and tell the receptionist that you will only take specific phone calls, If you receive regular reports but never have time to read them and then scramble for certain data right before a meeting, ask the person preparing the report to highlight the data you are most interested in. Making just one hour a day more productive equals an extra 365 hours a year.


Feel the urge to check in with the office? Do so at your own risk. As Mr. Litwack puts it” “If you’re a workaholic and you’re only in touch with the office twice a day, that’s good.” Set up an e-mail filter before vacationing to keep email volume under control and eliminate spam, he says. And if you have to check e-mail while away, check it just once a day. Says Ms. Beuermann-King: “Take control of the technology. Don’t let it control you.”


Mr. Rosenberg offers his own advice based on years of vacationing. Get out of town, he advises – “even staying at  a dodgy cottage on a lake” – or you risk getting caught up in day-to-day life. Work closely with your team so you can comfortably hand things over while you are away. Enjoy yourself and take the time to relax. And when you return, ease yourself back into work rather than going at 100 miles an hour.


“People need to understand the purpose of a vacation is to allow their mind to rest,” he says. “If they don’t, they’re doing themselves a real disservice.”