This week the U.S. celebrated Labor Day, a holiday that, according to Wikipedia, celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. To my mind, that translates to productivity. But interestingly, on the holiday that marks the end of summer, I came across this interesting piece: “Hey, America: Take a Vacation!”
The takeaway: compared to other countries around the globe, Americans not only get less vacation time from their employers, they don’t even use up all their allowances. And yet, as CNN Reporter Fareed Zakariah notes, “America’s growth historically has been fueled mostly by investment, education, productivity, innovation and immigration. The one thing that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with America’s new growth is a brutal work schedule.” It really makes you pause.
So this leads me to a series of What Ifs: What if, instead of logging the extreme hours that we do, we used that time to revitalize ourselves—to become more productive in our family relationships; to explore hobbies or creative interests that train our brains to work in new ways; to pursue volunteer opportunities that can contribute to the betterment of others. What if we took time to do things that truly brought us together as fellow citizens to help build stronger communities?
In fact, another article that caught my eye this week—in Fast Company—actually focuses on how volunteerism can help you hone skills and even open new career doors. LinkedIn has started to make volunteer activity a reportable part of individuals’ profiles.
As we look around at all the great ways technology can make our lives simpler and efficient, let’s also remind ourselves that we need to recharge to re-humanize. One employee just earned well-deserved recognition for his out of office auto response. The reason? He provided an honest yet professional message that helped recipients of the message think twice about the impact of their actions—not just on that one vacationing employee, but on his family life, as well. And leaving a forwarding email address of interruptyourvacation@[redacted].com was sheer brilliance.
I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to being addicted to my smart phone and responding to work emails late into the night or when on vacation, but I’ve begun to recognize a pattern. When I stop and disconnect from work (at specified and responsible times), and engage in something that challenges my personal development, I become a better leader, a better idea person, and a more productive employee.
So next time you push aside weekend or vacation plans for fear of corrupting your productivity, think again. Something that seems to be unproductive, can actually lead to an increase in that which we fear a decline in.
So for now, let’s not say it’s the end of summer; let’s say it’s the beginning of the season of the hearth.