Too often, companies achieve their goals by pressuring team members to put work ahead of everything else. This sends the message that personal lives are unimportant and leads employees to feel trapped and resentful. It’s the recipe for a toxic workplace—and that can doom your business in the long run.
Unfortunately, Americans tend to glorify overwork and consider vacation time a luxury. The United States is actually the only advanced country that doesn’t require employers to provide paid vacation time. Amazingly, even when workers are entitled to vacation time, they often don’t take it. In 2016, American workers left 662 million vacation days unused. I think we’re really missing out.
At Acceleration Partners (AP), I am deliberately bucking this trend. We have added a new, travel-focused benefit that requires employees to stay unplugged from work for at least five days at some point each year. That means no responding to Slack messages, work emails or phone calls. We have also helped a few employees realize their dreams by supporting new experiences—such as driving a racecar, hiking Yosemite and visiting Denmark.
I agree with Mark Twain, who once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” I also think business leaders would be wise to support travel and rest because it helps workers recharge and find inspiration.
Experiences abroad have sparked the founding of several well-known companies. A trip to Argentina prompted Blake Mycoskie to launch TOMS Shoes, which donates footwear to needy children with every purchase. And the genesis of eyeglass giant Warby Parker can be traced to the travels of co-founder Dave Gilboa, who lost his glasses while backpacking in Thailand.
I want my employees to escape the everyday because new experiences make them better contributors and happier people, which is a boon to workplace culture. Here are three major benefits of a great vacation:
1. Time to think. Time off the grid cuts down on all the noise in life—the news feeds and emails that clutter our minds—and gives us time to consider big-picture questions. When I took an RV trip through Wyoming with my family, I realized how common it is to take for granted the things that are in our own backyards, be it places, people or experiences. This applies to the workplace as much as to our personal lives. Just ask yourself how often your company has launched a nationwide search for a new employee while overlooking an existing team member who might be a perfect fit for the role.
2. New challenges. Have you ever driven all the way home before remembering you meant to stop someplace else en route? Your mind was on autopilot. Travel alters routines and awakens the conscious mind, opening us up to new ideas.
On a recent trip to Australia, I found I had to be totally alert just to walk around the block. Since it’s a left-hand-drive country, I had to keep my head up to avoid walking into people—and crossing the street demanded total focus. This hyper-awareness led me to observe much more about my surroundings—something I don’t do enough in my daily life. One thing I realized is that I do some of my best thinking when I am out and about, away from the distractions of my phone.
Getting off autopilot makes innovative thinking possible.
3. Fresh perspective. Routines can become crutches. Travel provides insights that can lead to better ways of doing. For example, on my trip to Australia I learned that restaurant workers there don’t welcome tips; they are compensated fairly and don’t rely on tips the way U.S. waitstaff do. I also found that in casual restaurants, the common pattern was to order and pay at the counter, then find a table and wait for the food to be served. Not only was this efficient, but it meant the bill was already paid when we wanted to leave, which was ideal for my family with our three tired kids.
Since the trip, that model of prepayment has stuck with me; I am now thinking about how it could be applied to my business. When you see things being done successfully in novel ways, it can make you question the status quo—and that’s the kind of thinking I want from my team.
The next time you notice someone at your company is working at all hours, suggest a break—and mean it! Not only will workers appreciate you for respecting their time, they will return to work with more fuel in the tank to propel your business forward.
Support for this article was provided by forbes