3 Ways Time Off Can Be a Supervisor’s Superpower

You need a vacation, but there’s too much work on your plate.

It’s not fair to pass it along to your employees. And your efforts are crucial to your organization’s workflow and bottom line. With U.S. employees leaving an average of almost 10 vacation days unused at the end of last year, you might think these reasons are tried and true. They are tried. The research, however, indicates they aren’t true.

In fact, detaching from work is ultimately better for you, your staff and your company. 

Better for you

With popular depictions of our always-on culture, it’s easy to believe that long hours make you a superhero. But they’re more likely to be your kryptonite.

In particular, long hours lead to:

  • Diminishing returns — The more overtime you work, the less effective you become at your job. A study from Boston University found no correlation between extreme hours and greater output.
  • Poor decisions — Being overworked impairs your decision-making ability, leading to lapses in judgment and unnecessary business risks.
  • Lack of sleep — In the short term, fatigue causes irritability, cognitive decline and a higher risk of injury. In the long term, you face chronic health conditions and burnout.
  • Mental health challenges — Long hours are tied to higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression and other serious issues.
  • Physical health consequences — Working too much significantly increases your risk of stroke and heart disease, according to research from the World Health Organization.

It’s not just your health either. Though it sounds counterintuitive, stepping away from work can improve your performance. Forbes notes that getting away boosts creativity, productivity, problem-solving and cognitive function. 

Better for your employees

The research is clear: Vacations are vital for your individual health and work output. But your team also stands to gain.

Top supervisors have a vested interest in the health and well-being of their employees, according to extensive research from Google. But one catch is that you can’t just tell employees to take time off. You have to show them.

CNBC notes that employees are less likely to take time off if their leaders don’t. Even if they go on vacation, they are likely to feel guilty or pressured to check on work, reducing the benefits of getting away.

The benefits to your team aren’t strictly health related. Vacations are also a way to empower and develop your employees. 

Employees consistently rank professional development as a top priority. Delegating your duties can improve trust, engagement and collaboration. 

Identify members of your team who can handle additional responsibilities and allow them to take on some of your tasks while you are away. Your employees will gain new skills, and your organization may discover future leaders.

Of course, long hours are sometimes inevitable. When this occurs, explain why it happened, ways it could be avoided in the future, and how you will better balance through a period of shorter hours, reduced workweeks or time away. Communicating these efforts to your employees emphasizes the value of work-life balance and helps everyone set boundaries.

Better for your organization

What’s good for the individual is good for the company. The reverse is also true. Long hours increase absenteeism, turnover and health care costs, according to the Harvard Business Review.

The negative business effects go beyond the health and performance of individual employees. Your ability to step away is a chance to strengthen your organization. 
If team performance or business outcomes suffer because one person is gone, a company is vulnerable. Plan for vacation time by improving your company’s workflow and processes. Use delegation and collaboration to strengthen your team. 

When long hours are chronic, your company should address the root cause to avoid the negative consequences of an overworked staff. Improvements may include removing unnecessary or outdated work duties, improving workflow and delegation, finding efficiencies in new technology and processes, and increasing headcount.

By supporting and demonstrating time off, leaders can also improve workplace culture. In addition to reducing the burnout and poor performance that accompany always-on workforces, encouraging time away shows respect for the health and well-being of employees.

A long-term strategy

Prioritizing your health, empowering your team and developing better work processes can lead to long-term rewards for you and your organization.
If you’re finding it difficult to step away from work, talk with your human resources department. They can help you manage obstacles and identify solutions. 

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