Now that the weather is finally co-operating, it's time to take a vacation. Or is it?
Many people think they are too busy to take a real vacation, one where the smart phone stays at home and work is truly turned off for days at a time.
The completely unsatisfying compromise has become checking emails from the beach. Relaxation is always a bit elusive with the crackberry close at hand.
And who is truly productive half-working while the sun, sand, waves and kids are calling? My seven-year old son recently commented that grown-ups should be banned from checking Blackberrys on weekends. This came as a shock, as I consider myself pretty good at staying unplugged until the kids go to bed.
My brother just sent me a funny article from the New York Times. Writer Tim Kreider argues that as a society we have become obsessed with being busy. The ubiquitous answer to the obligatory "How are you?" used to be "fine."
Now the response is "busy," with adjectives such as "very," "so" or "crazy" stuck in front of it for emphasis. The counter-response is an appreciative nod or a validating "better than the alternative."
But is it always better to be busy? My best ideas come to me when I'm half spaced out and a little bored, like in the shower or after a week of doing nothing. I'm not alone.
"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets," Kreider says.
It is easy to agree with this sentiment in theory. In practice, however, it feels a lot less possible to unplug and buck societal norms. Letting colleagues and customers down isn't an appealing trade-off for quality downtime.
Leslie Perlow of Harvard Business School argues that if workplace teams tackle the issue together it can be done, with big rewards for productivity and personal well-being.
Her new book, Sleeping With Your Smart Phone, details a process successfully implemented at the Boston Consulting Group where teams worked together to create predictable time off for co-workers. The results are impressive:
· Seventy-two per cent (versus 49 per cent who did not take part in the predictable time off experiment) were satisfied with their job
· Fifty-four per cent (versus 38 per cent) were satisfied with their work-life balance
· Ninety-five per cent (versus 84 per cent) were likely to perceive they were providing more significant value to clients
Clients reported different experiences with personal-time-off teams from neutral to extremely positive.
Boston Consulting's CEO is now committed to making it part of the culture. Entrepreneurs will likely be the toughest group to convince that a vacation is possible. But they might just have the most to gain.
— Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.