It goes without saying that, during the pandemic, finding ways to decompress has been challenging. For many of us, there is no end to the workday, creating an inability to step away, disconnect, and recharge. Our workday almost seems to blend into personal time, and days merge into one another with little room for daily personal tasks we once took for granted. This lack of balance between work and personal life is not healthy – it leaves staff burned out and unable to do their best work.
Work-life balance discussions are nothing new in the accounting industry. For years studies have come out telling us that finding a work-life balance is of increasing importance and is starting to surpass salary when discussing job satisfaction measurements. Despite this focus, we still struggle to find balance – and the struggle compounds for managers and those in a position of authority. We often find ourselves juggling priorities that feel in competition with one another. We want to have successful careers and are dedicated to making that happen, but also want to enjoy our personal lives and take time for ourselves. We want to support those we lead in finding their balance, but know we must maintain a focus on achieving goals and meeting metrics for growth and success.
Historically, summer meant shifting the balance between personal and work toward personal. Firms encouraged employees to take time off and use vacation time to recharge and refocus after a grueling busy season. Planning and taking time off for vacation used to be exciting and fun to discuss with others. After months of working from home, and being always on, this year feels different. We find ourselves asking questions like, “Will I be judged for taking time off?” or “Do I tell my colleagues where I am going?” and “Should I answer that email even though I’m on vacation?”
As restrictions are being lifted in some regions (and re-imposed in others), it’s vital to take time for ourselves before we burn out. It is just as important to support and encourage our team members to do the same. As you’re discussing vacation time and PTO with your teams, here are a few tips to help support your team:
Encourage them to take the time they need.
Working from home is still the norm in many areas, and with the rapid fluctuations in case numbers, we don’t know when, if ever, we will go back to the “old” normal. Many firms are discussing allowing staff to work from home long-term, continuing that “always-on” feeling that promotes burnout. Your team NEEDS to take time and recharge but may feel guilty about wanting to take time off. Encourage them to utilize their PTO with positive feedback. Tell them that you recognize how hard they’ve been working in unusual circumstances, and they should reward themselves with some well-earned time off.
Be the role model.
Some of your colleagues may feel that they don’t want to be the only one taking off time, especially if their manager is still on the clock. Not only is it good for your team members to see you taking time for yourself to unwind, but it’s good for you to recharge.
Set boundaries and stick to them.
During this time, when we can work remotely from anywhere, and we are consistently connected to our smartphones, it’s difficult to “shut off.” Set boundaries with your colleagues and with yourself. Do you consider it acceptable to respond to a work email while on vacation? If so, give yourself a time limit and stick to it. Let your colleagues know that you are taking time off and that they need to respect the time you have earned for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’ve flown to a tropical paradise, or are sitting on your front porch reading a book – a vacation is a vacation.
Be respectful of others’ time and space.
Though taking PTO shouldn’t be viewed as an additional stress factor, for many it is difficult to navigate. Some may feel pressure or anxiety about taking or not taking PTO. How or when to decompress is a personal decision, and each colleague should do what is best for them. Respect the boundaries that others have set in place around their time and encourage your staff to do the same. Think of it as reciprocity – if you don’t respect others’ boundaries, how can you expect them to respect the boundaries you and your team members set?
The last few months have been challenging and emotional for a lot of us, and taking PTO shouldn’t be viewed as an additional stressor. Yet with all of the uncertainly going on in the world, something as easy as taking a moment to breathe may be difficult to remember. As managers, we want our teams to take the time they need to recharge, whether that means a few days away at the beach or a Saturday night at home binging their favorite TV show.
Encourage your team to take this opportunity and focus on themselves; read, talk a walk, learn a language, or spend some much needed time with family. Don’t forget to listen to your advice – it’s important for you to also take advantage of this time and just breathe.
Editor’s Note: Our usually scheduled Monday morning blog post will be rescheduled due to the Labor Day holiday. We look forward to popping back up in your inbox and feed on Thursday, 09/10, and until then, stay safe, healthy, and productive!