Do not look at the woman in front of you as having been out of the workforce. Instead, see her as formerly employed in one of the hardest occupations possible: parenting. She can handle stress and odd hours, all with very little sleep. She can multitask and think days, weeks and even years in advance. As an HR professional, there are things you can do to help her return to the workplace and capitalize on her unique set of needs.
Understand the Compromise
In a study published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, researchers found that compromise was a major theme in the decision of a parent to return to work. A parent returning to work has made a decision to balance her life between two huge priorities. Understand that she may be torn between being at home and being at work. She wants to do both, and well, but bilocation is still a fantasy. By keeping the job focus on achievement over time, a smart HR director can ease the pain of returning to work and increase employee retention.
Value the Employee
The same article states that one of the major factors for a parent to return to work is for a sense of value. It is important for any employee to feel valued, but may be more so for the returning parent. Awards, appreciation flowers or a heartfelt thank you note can bring out the best in a parent-turned-employee.
Remember that a mother coming back into the labor force post labor is not some lost soul who needs a place to be. She is an accomplished human being who can bring value to your company.
Go To Bat
Workplace flexibility is central to a parent’s decision and ability to return to the workforce, according to the Journal of Industrial Relations. Unfortunately, studies show there is often a dissonance between the policies of a company and the management’s actual practice. Having a work-at-home policy means nothing if that policy is never approved by management. Economies of time are central for success for both a business and a parent. A business manager needs enough man hours to complete a task but valued parent-workers needs time to pick up children from school and handle kid-related emergencies.
Sometimes it will be the HR director’s job to mediate this balance of time and responsibility. This may require conversations with managers, but it could also mean offering the parent-worker alternative job responsibilities. Researchers are finding that the stresses of being both a parent and a successful employee are opening up people returning to the workforce to the idea of changing career paths. Making this a possibility can be good for all parties involved.
About the Author: Ruth Harris has been a HR consultant in the Bay area for ten years. When she’s not at the office, she enjoys spending time with her kids and exploring the city of San Francisco.
My smart phone took the plunge yesterday. Though it was just milliseconds before I fished it from the sink, it was long enough evidently for it to drown and it is now awaiting resurrection in a bag of rice. Oh, and I’m over age 50 – that might be significant later in my saga. Or not….
I quickly retrieved my phone, wiped it down, and took it apart, wiping off all the significant parts I could find. I then had to jump in a car aimed for a full day seminar. No rice in sight until later in the day. Much later….
And as we plunged into this training session at precisely 9:00am, I thought, as a ‘mature’ (oh how I hate categorizing myself with that term) professional, I won’t even miss my smart phone. After all, I have been in the professional world since before the fax machine. Before the internet. Before everyone – age 10 to 100 – carried a cell phone. Heck, I’m of the generation who received resumes and cover letters through the U.S. Mail. We sent hard copy memos, letters, and correspondence. I would be just fine, laser focusing in on the seminar message and interacting with 20 awesome coworkers.
10:00. First break. I reached for my purse to grab the phone, putting it back together in the hopes of that lively Android light would blink back. Nope. My colleagues around me kept up with work emails, personal texts, and some even took notes on their smart devices. Not me. Pen to paper, I was. Deep breath.
12:00. Lunch time. Reached back again. “ Stop it, I don’t need that infernal thing,” I said to myself. But what if there were an “emergency” at work? At home? And whatever would I do having to get through the multiple emails that were, undoubtedly, filling up my inbox? Deep breath, I can do it. i can go on without that electronic device. I think, as a small headache began to come on….
The afternoon was much the same, and I won’t continue to bore you with my internal thoughts and struggles. It is now the first FULL day without my smart phone. I am in withdrawal. Hello, my name is Dorothy and I am addicted to my smart phone. I’ve had to email colleagues, friends, and family and let them know that in order to get in touch with me – they would have to pick up the telephone, or send an email. How old-fashioned, right?
I actually got up out of my seat to go talk to colleagues and employees. How thought-provoking! Maybe this is my path this week – to remember that in my role as a Human Resources professional, I need to remember that I am dealing with HUMANS. I am HUMAN. Face-to-face is not always bad, nor does it have to be. It was not painful to get up and walk around the office and our buildings. Human interaction wasn’t bad. A few people looked up as I walked by and even said hello.
We all get wrapped up in this electronic world, and a smart phone is really convenient to keep up with work email, & stay in touch with family, friends, colleagues. It is easy to flip through Flipboard for news and Facebook for photos of those cute great nieces. Maybe though, just maybe, we could be better role models in the HR profession if we were out talking to people more. In person. When it’s not bad news.
Hmmm. Perhaps one of my future “stretch” assignments for my HR team will be for them to put down their phones, get up from behind their desks, and go talk to employees. Just because….I’m old.
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.
The long winter months can inspire you to peruse deals online or phone your travel agent for a vacation away from home – somewhere relaxing and fun (or perhaps warmer) where you can forget the bustle of everyday life and stretch out in your finest resort attire for a few days.
Don’t feel guilty or hesitant about taking a little vacation this winter. Even if you’re a business owner, a little time away from the regular office environment and the daily tasks of running your business and managing your staff can refresh you for the new year and make you see things in a new light. A vacation can even help you brainstorm ideas to make 2014 the best year your business has ever had.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your winter vacation so that you come back to the office mentally refreshed and inspired.
Disregard smaller tasks for the bigger picture
First of all, don’t forget the fact that you are on vacation once you lock your office door, pack the car or carry-on bag, and bid farewell for a week. This means giving yourself permission to enjoy the time off – not spending it doing the frustrating grunt work that you associate with each weekday.
Instead, take a few minutes every so often while you are on vacation to brainstorm about the bigger picture and feel creative. The point of brainstorming while on vacation is to invite new ideas, not labor over mundane tasks.
Enjoy a different schedule
If you do things in the same order each day – have coffee, shower, brush your teeth – we are hereby giving you permission to ditch your usual routine during a vacation. You may be pleasantly surprised at how mixing it up a little can affect a creative spark.
Get some fresh air
Fresh air is one of the keys to creative success. If you’re the kind of person who sits inside your fancy hotel room and watches the cable channels – or sits by the fire at the ski lodge the entire time – try to get outside into nature a little more and breathe deeply. You don’t have to necessarily think about work while you do it; just clear your head to let new ideas in!
Take something to write with
If you’re out and about during your vacation and you come up with a fantastic idea, it would be a shame to let it escape. Avoid this by keeping a small notebook and pen with you. Why not just use your smart phone to keep track? Studies have shown that your own handwriting is better than a touch screen for stimulating your mind.
Talk to locals
Particularly if you are going somewhere out of the ordinary, it may benefit you to engage in conversations with the locals or with others on vacation. Don’t be afraid to get their input on new ideas as well as products and techniques your business has used in the past. The perspective of someone who isn’t involved with your company – or even part of your demographic – can be valuable.
Do some reflecting
Reflection during the quieter moments of vacation can be beneficial for helping you return to the office feeling refreshed. What do you want to accomplish this year? In addition to thinking about your own business’ highs and lows in the last 12 months (or whatever time period you choose), you may also want to reflect on other businesses. What are they doing right that inspires you? Keep a list of what springs to your mind.
Share your ideas when you return to work
Once vacation is over and you’re back at the office, share any new insight with your team members and ask for input. Explain why you came up with the ideas, and don’t forget to talk about how the new ideas can be used within your business.
Remember, a vacation is not only essential to your own well-being, it’s also great for your business. Even if you never considered taking a vacation as good for your career, brainstorming for 2014 is sometimes easier outside of the daily grind.
About the Author: Allison Rice, Director of Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has extensive experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of custom pens and other promotional items such as personalized USB drives, Allison is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses. She regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog.
While the thought of trading in the rat race of an office building or major corporation, and working from home, may sound highly appealing, the reality is, this transition is often more challenging than most people believe. When you’ve gotten used to the all-work structure of an office, coming home and working in the midst of your kids and home life can be like a splash of cold water. How do you manage your family life, without sacrificing work ethic or the deadlines that don’t slow down?
I know from personal experience that working from home is no walk in the park. Whether it’s kids pulling on my arm, ready for a snack, or my husband calling from his office, asking me to pick up the dry-cleaning, remaining task oriented has been something I’ve had to learn as I go. Although I know there are times when I need to remain flexible and allow for interruptions, for the most part, my work must remain a priority.
If you’re transitioning from office to home and are worried your work might suffer, the key is balance. Without it, you’ll feel as if you’re juggling ten glass plates all on your own. The following tips have proven helpful in my own work journey and I’m able to keep my family life in order while maintaining my profession.
Dedicate a space to work.
There is a reason why office buildings and cubicles exist – they are dedicated spaces where people complete work-related tasks. If one of the reasons you’re considering working from home is to escape the cubicle, trust me – I’ve been there. Although I’m not suggesting replicating a cubicle in your home, I am saying that a dedicated work space in your home is absolutely essential to success.
If you have a room you can turn into your office, do so. If not, dedicate a corner of a quiet space to your office. The kitchen table or the living room couch is probably not the best space to spread your stuff out. Papers are easily lost or spilled on and the distractions are numerous. For me, going out and buying a room partitioner when I first started saved me from hours of insanity and distraction.
Have all the essentials in place.
The great part of working at an office is that everything you need is right there. A printer? No problem. Fax machine? Your corporation probably has several. When you transition home, however, you may need to go out and buy these essentials. Do this right away, so there’s no scrambling at the last minute when an important deadline comes around.
I like having everything in my workspace. That means the printer is right where I can reach it, and my fax machine is just steps away. Even though other members of my family make use of these items every so often, they still remain in my office, regardless of who needs to use them. Whatever your tools are – keep them where you work.
If your office is a mess of supplies and papers, then set aside some time to get it in pristine condition. Purchase supplies and containers to keep your things attractively organized. Knowing where everything is helps me keep my cool and manage my work more effectively.
Organization is essential.
If you’re a naturally organized person, this tip is like second-nature for you already. However, I know that I need every other tool out there to keep myself on track. When you’re managing work deadlines at the same time as soccer practice and doctor appointments, a planner will become your go-to.
Purchase a large calendar and write out all your tasks for the month. Try to do this at the beginning of every month, for as far out as you can plan. When dates are nailed down far in advance, you know what’s coming up and therefore, what you can say yes, and no, to. I’ve found that a daily planner is helpful, as well. Being able to create and check-off items from a daily to-do list makes me feel more accomplished and in control of my day.
Set your hours.
Working from 9-5 certainly has its drawbacks, but truthfully, the structure of a workday is often what keeps people successful. The same applies when working from home. Not having a set work time really throws a wrench in your success, something I learned the hard way.
I find it’s best to plan your work day around your family, especially if you have kids. When your kids are off to school for the day, settle down in your office and get to work. If you work steadily through the school day, that’s a good chunk of time spent on work-related tasks. As important as it is to start when you say you will, it’s equally important to finish on time, too. My kids find it frustrating when I say I’ll be finished by four, and I’m still pounding on the keyboard come 5 o’clock. Stick to your hours. You’ll have a happier family because of it.
Make it clear you’re working.
Just because you are home doesn’t mean that you are free. Although one of the hardest things to learn about working from home, it is also one of the most essential. When I began working from home, friends felt free to call and talk for hours, and I often let myself get caught in this trap. However, your friends, and your family, need to understand that work must get done even though it’s getting done from home. Let your loved ones know that you have a job that needs to get done, and you’d love to socialize, but after work. Difficult? Yes. But necessary? Absolutely.
At this point, you may be wondering if working from home is really worth it. Let me tell you from personal experience – yes. While it does require a high amount of discipline and time to learn how to manage the balancing act, in the end, you’ll find much more joy in your work and in your family. Begin setting boundaries early, and working from home will become a breeze.
About the Author: Naomi Shaw is a freelance writer in Southern California. As a mom who works at home, she knows how challenging it is to keep a balance and distinction between family and work. These tips have been some of the most helpful when transitioning to working at home, and she enjoys helping other women find success in their work ventures.
Today’s dads are working hard to be “better” fathers than previous generations. No one is saying that that those generations of dads were not good fathers, times are simply changing and dads today are making it clear that they want to raise their children differently.
While dads are making family time a bigger priority than their fathers and grandfathers did, their dedication to a thriving professional career has not changed. Corporate culture, especially in larger companies, doesn’t always mesh with a dad’s desire for more family time. Because of this, many working dads are finding themselves struggling to juggle a work-life balance, as women have been doing for decades.
However, some companies are evolving with the times and improving their paternity leave programs as well as utilizing technology to allow for more work flexibility. This includes giving dads the ability to work from home, even if it’s only for a couple of hours a day so they can cut out of the office early to pick the kids up from school.
Of course another factor is that our wives are not the women their mothers were. With more women in the workforce, in fact 40% are now the family breadwinner, the home environment has changed and so must the delegation of household responsibilities. There is increased pressure on men to be more than just a paycheck and to play an equal parenting role.
But it’s also that our generation has wanted to change and be more present in our children’s lives. To really know them and to be closely involved with shaping who our children become.
According to a Pew study, fathers in 1965 spent only 2.5 hours a week on child care, where today that number has jumped to about 7 hours. While that may not seem like much, evolution is a process and I believe that the generations of boys we are raising will do even more.
I had a great childhood and have enormous admiration, love and respect for my dad but have still strived to be a more involved father in the raising of my three children. And I hope that my sons will do even more than I’ve done for their kids.
Men are evolving. Each generation is told more and more that it’s okay to cry, to be vulnerable and to love. So when we hold our babies in our arms for the very first time – we do. All of those thoughts we had as kids “I wish my dad were here,” “I’ll do that when I’m a dad,” come flooding back and we make a conscious effort to be different. Some of those promises we keep and some falter under the pressures of careers and mortgages. But the point is that we get a little closer to being the dad that we wanted to be and hopefully, as we reflect on the dad we said we would be – and the dad we actually are – we continue to evolve.
Chris Duchesne is the VP of Care.com’s Global Employer Program, Workplace Solutions. He brings more than 15 years of experience in HR technology to Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world with 8 million members spanning 16 countries. A key member of the leadership team, he oversees the Global Workplace Solutions program that provides customized, cost-effective programs that make Care.com’s suite of services available to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. A father of three small children, Chris knows first-hand the challenges working parents face and brings that experience to his role.
The difficulty associated with maintaining a work-life balance certainly isn’t a new saga – in fact, it likely dates all the way back to the days of the caveman. That said it’s becoming a more prominent issue for the workforce and, consequently, a more significant focal point for those in HR. If employees are facing stress in one aspect of their life, be it work or personal, it’s likely impacting their other functions as well. And in a time when productivity and innovation mean the difference between being a leader or a laggard, most firms can’t afford not to acknowledge the challenges that most in the workforce are facing.
A recent Pew study found that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers find balance their work with their family life is either somewhat or very challenging. Similarly, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers always feel rushed. What do these statistics mean for HR? More than half the workforce is feeling the squeeze when it comes to time and flexibility.
But working parents may be more passive about their need for a positive work-life balance than those from Gen Y. Unlike their predecessors, Millennials are explicitly demanding flexibility. In fact, 69% believe that regular office attendance is unnecessary, according to a Cisco study. What’s more, according to findings from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, 75% of Millennials are unwilling to compromise on their family or personal values. As a result, young top performers are choosing work environments in which the benefits are less about pay and more about creativity, personal meaning and adaptability.
Nevertheless, as baby boomers retire in mass numbers, the two generations are very quickly taking over the entire workforce which means that hiring managers and executives have to take note.
Below is a quick run-down for auditing your firms’ current culture offerings in regard to work-life balance.
Use an anonymous survey to investigate the following aspects of your employees’ life:
- Stress levels and perceived causes (i.e., time, responsibilities, work load, etc.)
- Impact of stress on productivity
- Desired options for alleviating stress (i.e., increased time flexibility, telecommuting options, mandatory breaks/no-work activities, health promotion activities, etc.)
With the results of this survey, pinpoint the issues that your workforce is facing and subsequently engage an educated trial-and-error process for implementing successful work-life balance practices. Pursue a follow-up survey after 3-6 months to ensure that the changes being made are putting your organizational culture on the right track.
This type of proactive behavior results in a domino effect of positive impacts because in addition to improving the productivity of your workforce, there is also a direct recruiting benefit. Firms that adapt to the changing wants and needs of the workforce are naturally going to improve their employer brand, or their reputation among prospective employees. In time, this will not only increase candidates’ attraction to the firm, but it will attract those individuals with the best culture fit. What’s more, the sourcing process will be less complex, reducing both time to hire and cost to hire. While all of this takes time to develop, it’s a win-win for candidates and employers alike.
Experiencing this upward spiral of hiring benefits isn’t difficult, but it does require change. In essence, the essential components to this entire process are (1) acknowledging a problem faced by the parents and millennials in the workforce that is causing a noticeable shift in work culture demands and (2) accepting short-term costs for significant long-term gains.
About the Author: Greg Moran is the President and CEO of Chequed.com, an Employee Selection and Automated Reference Checking technology suite as well as a respected author on Human Capital Management with published works including Hire, Fire & The Walking Dead and Building the Talent Edge. Greg can be found blogging at disrupthr.com, on twitter @CEOofChequed and Google+.
As an executive, we have two assets which rival as to which is most valuable to us. Both our time and our team are the two most critical components in achieving our objectives, personally and collectively. This article is going to focus on our time and a few suggestions on how to get the greatest return on our time.
As true transformational leaders, in order to accomplish our mission, it is critical we spend our time doing the right things. We know this; yet, we often struggle with what is most important, how to prioritize, and how to keep our eye on the ball when distractions arise which they invariably do.
A few thoughts to consider and discipline ourselves around:
1. Manage and filter the interruptions
I recently read an article which touted that we spend only about 10 minutes on a task before we are interrupted by various issues. How can we curb these interruptions? What if we turned off our phones, asked our team to do the same, and instill a mutual respect for ‘sacred time’ to actually get work done? What if we actually say ‘no’ when these distractions arise? I know what you are thinking, how can we say no to our bosses? I am certainly not suggesting that is the standard answer every time; however, there are scenarios in which we must say no. A book I have found especially helpful, The Power of the Positive No, gives excellent tips on how to say ‘yes’ while saying ‘no,’ while preserving a strong relationship with the other party. Check it out.
2. Stop the multi-tasking.
Many studies actually state that multi-tasking is one of the worst things we can do to maintain brain health. The sad reality is that the trend for multi-tasking is going up not down. With the increase of smart phones, email, texting, working mothers, and the quest for ‘work/life balance,’ the quest for balance has led to just doing more at one time, versus prioritizing and saying ‘no.’ One study has actually stated that our IQ’s can fall as much as 10 points when we are juggling so many projects. Of course, that leads to ineffective leadership, production, and overall results. We need to make a commitment to stop the multi-tasking. We need to focus. We need to choose one project to work on at a time. We need to have one centered conversation at a time. We need to leave our phones in the car or at least turn it off when meeting or visiting with another person. Let’s show them the respect they deserve, and that we would want, if we were in their shoes.
3. Focus and stay disciplined to the chosen priorities.
This is where it gets tough. Everyone is pulling on us to do ‘this, that, or the other’ now! I get it. What I know for sure is that if we allow everyone else’s priorities to dictate 100% how and when we spend our time, we will never get where we want to go. Period. We have to be ruthlessly determined to focus on what we believe we need to do to achieve our goals. We have to plant our flag as to where we are going, determine our plans and our goals on how we are going to get there, and then, publicly state where and how we are going to spend our time to get there. By stating the ‘what and the how’ of where we are going publicly, it makes it much easier to say ‘no’ when distractions arise.
4. Feng shui your office and your mind.
This is probably the single most effective way to help clarify where to spend your time. Recently, I spent time (yes, the asset in which we are discussing) completely clearing out my office, my outdated files, and my next month and second half plans for the remainder of 2013. I found myself struggling to keep up with all the projects I have underway, and my ’piles’ and ‘folders’ were simply not working for me anymore. I was frustrated, stressed out, and was working every weekend trying to keep up. Sure, we all have our way of organizing, which is up to you. My point is to just do it. Organizing papers, searching for contacts and not having a clear way to find information can simply exhaust and zap our mojo. Recently, I revisited Stephen Covey’s First Things First to develop a leadership development workshop, and it was a fabulous refresher.
At the end of the day, it takes guts to make the hard calls as to where to spend our time, and when to say ‘no.’ It is all about declaring where we want to go, deciding what are the few key things we must do to get there, and prioritizing how we will get these things done. Then, we must continue to verbalize this to ourselves and our troops to keep us focused, committed and to avoid the distractions which are guaranteed to present themselves.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
How many times did you hit the snooze button this morning before you finally dragged yourself out from under the covers? C’mon, be honest. But let yourself snooze just one time and it quickly becomes a habit. Next thing you know, you’re sleeping so late that you have to skip breakfast. And then, the rest of your day is off track. I know it sounds cliché at this point, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Let’s explore the reasons why.
Having breakfast may lower your risk of developing chronic disease.
Listen up, ladies! Skipping your morning oatmeal could induce insulin resistance according to a University of Colorado School of Medicine study (presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society). Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes. Now, this doesn’t mean that men get a free pass; it just means that the study was only done with women.
This seems to support the findings from an earlier study presented in 2003 at the American Heart Association’s annual conference. According to this study, though, not only did breakfast eaters have good blood sugar levels, but they were also less likely to be obese and less likely to feel hungry later in the day.
Breakfast can energize you and keep you focused throughout the day.
A 1999 study found that a breakfast that is high in fiber and carbohydrates could help you feel less tired throughout the day. Think about that before you hit the snooze. You might think you’re energizing your body with a few minutes of much-needed rest, but snoozing in lieu of breakfast may actually make you feel more tired later in the day.
A 2012 study published in the journal Appetite found that students who ate breakfast showed greater speed and accuracy on cognitive and memory tests than students who skipped breakfast. This study found that a lack of a morning meal affected both genders, but it was more detrimental to girls than boys.
How about a bowl of granola to calm your nerves?
Think that extra five or 10 minutes of sleep will help you cope with stress better throughout the day? According to the results of a 2002 Nutritional Neuroscience study, that’s simply not the case. This study specifically tested the relationship between breakfast cereal consumption and cortisol levels. The body releases cortisol as part of its natural response to stress. So, when we’re stressed out, our cortisol levels are high. But this study found that people who ate breakfast cereal in the morning had lower cortisol levels than those who didn’t. That’s not to say that cereal is the best possible breakfast, but according to this study, it’s better than no breakfast at all.
Stress is a very serious problem in our fast-paced society. One of the biggest problems is that the things that stress us out don’t go away. Your boss is on your case; bills are unpaid; a loved one is ill. These things tend to add up and lead to chronic stress, and chronic stress tends to lead to other health issues. Having a good breakfast is one of the best stress-management tools in your toolkit.
Hitting the snooze button in the morning may be what feels good in the moment, but having breakfast is what is going to keep you feeling good throughout the day, and possibly, for years to come. So next time your body is fighting to stay asleep, give some thought to what you would be giving up for an extra 10 minutes of not-so-restful sleep.
About the Author: Deborah Enos, CN, also known as “The One-Minute Wellness Coach,” is The Health Coach for busy, working people. Deborah regularly speaks to corporations, nationwide, paring her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact corporate employees’ lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah has authored two books, “Weight A Minute” and “What’s In My Suitcase?”. Deborah regularly makes appearances on NBC, FOX13, and has been featured in The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine and Self Magazine, sharing her quick approach to a healthier lifestyle. Read more about Deborah Enos at www.DeborahEnos.com or follow her on Twitter @deborahenos
Photo credit iStockphoto
Days, weeks, and months of leading a team can prove to be very exhausting. People are always asking things of you and while you love to give, the cycle of take-take-take can leave your well running dry.
A vacation is a great way to break out of that cycle and refresh your attitude. Think back to your last vacation. Did you feel relaxed, joyful, fulfilled? Did you gain a fresh perspective and perhaps return to work with an ignited flame of creativity?
Not only will you return from a vacation as a better version of yourself, relaxed and ready to reenergize your team, but your absence could also provide room for some serious growth. Here’s how…
Organize and Tie Loose Ends
Have you ever left on a vacation with your house is disarray? After days of relaxation you come home to a dizzying and depressing mess that literally pops your blissful bubble. The same fundamentals apply to your work demands; the only way you can truly capitalize on the rejuvenating benefits of a vacation is if you prepare yourself for a clean and smooth return.
Accomplish this by tying up all loose ends. Put in the extra time before your vacation to get ahead and push all formal follow-ups to a few days after your return. Regardless of your vacation’s destination, plan for a return jet-lag day where you don’t necessarily have to dive into anything, instead you can lightly skim over the week ahead, acclimate yourself, and organize some more. In short: work through your lunch breaks and put in the late nights pre-vacation, so that your Zen feelings can keep lasting upon your return to work.
Delegate Deadlines, Duties and Follow Ups
It is a good idea to formally notify your team of your planned time out-of the-office. Reemphasize their duties on ongoing projects and understand that it’s OK for deadlines to take place while you are way. It will be your team’s responsibility to follow-up with you however you see fit. The whole point of a vacation is to take a break from work, so consider a suggestion as simple as a Friday follow-up email. This way each team member can still feel accountable while giving you some quick updates on their progress.
If you want to savor your time away, then comfort yourself by appointing a person who can answer questions and make real-time decisions in your place. Obviously pick a person who is trustworthy and, almost more important, pick someone who displays your similar style of leadership and execution. Give this single person your emergency contact information (only after describing what truly constitutes as an emergency).
Believe In Your Team
One of the main hesitations for a leader to take a vacation is that he or she thinks the team cannot function without them being there. (Guard your egos, management: this is not true.) While your unique leadership style and encouraging attributes keep your team organized, it also can stifle them into some stiff routines.
Allow your team some space to breathe while you are way. Let them know that you consider this time as a chance for people to test out their own styles while proving themselves. When you return, discuss with your team the differences they experienced in your absence. Perhaps the freedom allowed them to discover a more productive approach to work that is both functional and inspired. You never know the new directions your employees can surprise you with; utilize your vacation as a canvas for them to both breathe and explore.
Regardless of your overall approach, it is important for every leader to protect their right to live. Whether you are hoping to reconnect with your family, save yourself from burnout, or maybe even make some unique and friendly business connections, a vacation serves multiple needs.
Life is short and work is long. Commit to refreshing yourself and your efforts every now and then with a vacation that you not only deserve- but you really need! When done correctly it can reconnect you with your work and creativity, all while affording your team time and space for professional growth.
What other tips can ensure that leaders will have a great vacation?
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Summer – it’s a time for the pool, barbeques and a laid back frame of mind, right? As a working mom, I cannot say that I agree. The school year is full of places to go, people to see, and projects to be completed, but at least it is not up to me to decide where and when my children should be. Day in and day out there is one constant, they go to school and I go to work.
Summer on the other hand is totally different. There is often too much pressure on working moms when it comes to summer vacation. Where should I send the kids? Will they be happy? Every week is different obstacle to be overcome. There is no regular schedule or organized transportation like the school bus picking them up, and sometimes it can actually add to my schedule. Am I being a bad mom by not allowing them to have a ‘true vacation’ – always making them get up early and go somewhere just so I can make ends meet and further my career?
As women, we naturally want to be the best moms we can be, and in large part that is trying to provide a healthy physical and emotional balance in the home. Our nurturing selves want to be there for kids in the summer – to take them to the beach, the park or the zoo; but we also want them to know that life is not always run on a schedule and taking it easy is also part of a balanced life.
I realize that there is much to be gained from a jam-packed summer of friends, activities, and both sleep away and day camps – I myself, spent many exciting weeks at various camps – basketball, tennis, Girls State – and I didn’t even have a working mom. And even though I understand and even appreciate the value, I sometimes I have to wonder… how many days are there left till school starts again??
Sophia Lidback is Product Manager at Exaserv, where her responsibilities include managing product development, writing and editing technical and functional user manuals and managing customer relations with respect to product implementation. Sophia is a wife and mother of 4.