HR Snapshot #16: Why Taking Time Out of Business is Vital : Leadership Lessons in Rest
Posted on 11th December 2019 at 10:26
By Helen Roberts, Associate Director of Engagement, Humber HR People
Very early in my career, one of my previous employers used to force everyone to take at least one two-week holiday per year. They believed it took a fortnight to fully unwind and recharge, and they wanted all of their employees to have at least two consecutive weeks away from work on an annual basis. They worked us all hard; they were concerned about burnout; and selfishly they wanted their consultants at the top of their game. So, they believed forcing a longer period of rest was a golden ticket to enhanced productivity throughout the rest of the year.
It was the late 90s. I was a young twenty-something and I thought this was quite draconian. I didn’t want to be told how to take my holiday. I was still in those giddy days of holidays pre kids – when packing took minutes (if you needed to do it at all!) and you’d go straight from the local bar to the airport, fly home overnight and go directly to work from the airport the following morning (it makes me tired now just thinking about it…) Holidays then were about as many different trips as possible, and I’d pick every day off wisely. So whilst I begrudgingly booked my annual fortnight’s holiday, I silently rebelled against it…..
Now, 20 years later, I have a slightly different view. I still don’t think it’s ideal for an employer to tell you how to take your holiday (notwithstanding the need for operational and seasonal shutdowns which I completely understand) But I do think we all need a significant period of time every now and then to truly rest and recharge.
Those of you experienced in sports training (which for the record isn’t me!) will know only too well that rest is a vital part of any exercise regime, allowing your body to repair, rebuild and strengthen the muscles that you’ve taxed during your workout. Any athlete knows allowing your body to rest will lead to better results in the long run.
So why then should it be any different for the world of work?
With the world spinning alarmingly quickly around us (and not likely to slow down any time soon) we have got so adept at checking our emails 24x7. However, when are we truly giving ourselves the chance to repair, rebuild, strengthen or even re-boot?
Focus is a great thing. But constant focus can stop the mind from being present. We focus on “doing” rather than “being”, thinking this will help us get greater results. And yet when we are truly present – or “being” - amazing things can happen. We see things differently, clearer even.
The French have a term, “coup d’oeil”, meaning a flash of insight, or rapid discovery of a truth. This could be an idea, a revelation, an opportunity…a new strategic insight for your business…a solution out of the blue to a problem that’s been vexing you for a while….
We intellectually know we need this inspiration from time to time. And yet, you cannot force a coup d-oeil just because you need one. It either comes or doesn’t come. You can’t coerce a creative thought because you’ve promised a blog for the December newsletter (note to self…. ). But you can lead yourself to create an environment that makes the insight more likely to arrive. If you are always down in the weeds – you will only see the weeds – admittedly from all angles – but the weeds nonetheless. Sometimes you need to find a different perspective.
So, as the festive season approaches, give yourself the gift of recharge and perspective this Christmas by being taking some well-earned time out away from your business. Do whatever works for you to allow your mind to be truly present. Unlike my old employers, I’m not forcing you to take a fortnight. In my experience it’s often the quality, not always the quantity, of the recharge time that counts. So read a book, take the dog for a longer walk, have a relaxing bath, ditch the car and walk instead of drive, enjoy nature. Remove yourself physically and mentally from work. And – as importantly - enjoy it.
And if a coup d-oeil hits, fantastic. You have all of 2020 waiting in the wings to give you time to action it. And if it doesn’t – then maybe you just needed to rest. Sometimes our bodies are smarter than we think. Perhaps practise “being” rather than “doing” a little bit more … and that inspiration, perspective or idea will come, possibly when you least expect it. In the meantime, your body and mind (and ultimately your business) will thank you for the break.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year” Charles Dickens
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