How Can The Upside of Downtime Work For You

By Cait DeBaun, Project: Time Off

On October 5th, a diverse and influential group of thought leaders in business and human resources gathered in Washington, D.C. to think about one important question: since American workers aren’t taking their time off, what can we do to reverse that trend?

We’re so glad they asked.

Over the course of this year’s Upside of Downtime Forum, experts like David Dye, Dan Schawbel, Samantha Brown, Juliet Funt, and Guy Kawasaki — in concert with Project: Time Off experts — provided a variety of answers to that broad and important question.

Here’s a taste of five of the biggest concepts that you can start putting into motion at your office today — most of them might be easier to do than you think.

  1. Create a magnetic culture.

In an age when talent recruitment and retention often makes the difference in whether a business succeeds or fails, an engaging culture is imperative. (Not to mention the incredibly high cost of turnover.) But while that can feel like a big issue for one individual to solve — especially if your workplace has several divisions or is geographically spread — it’s important to remember that most employees see their boss as the top influencer in their life. A better culture can be as simple as keeping in mind the three P’s Deloitte’s David Dye believes truly drive employees: pride, purpose, and passion. If you can offer those three things — whether it’s by incorporating an innovative vacation policy or just in everyday interaction — workers will be happier, engaged, and more productive.

  1. Be predictable and flexible.

Our most recent research on the subject shows that over half of Americans don’t take all their time off every year. That’s not the case at Deloitte, where 81 percent of the firm’s nearly 245,000 employees use all their paid time off every year. How? It’s the result of a reinvention of an approach to performance management and new policies that provide local leaders the autonomy to find the right solution for their people.

What that really means is that it’s about communication. Deloitte managers ask three key questions of their direct reports: What inspires you? What’s getting in your way? How can I help? It may seem simple, but even asking these questions can help you better understand employee needs and desires — whether that’s about taking time off or anything else.

  1. Encourage people to take ownership.

Instilling self-engagement in employees is both cost-effective and offers significant return on investment. By fostering a positive culture and communicating — and, in action, empowering them to make decisions like taking time off when they need it — you will encourage them to not only want to stay at the job, but excel as self-sufficient operators. “Say to people, I trust you, I trust your judgement,” Guy Kawasaki explained. “I empower you to take action.” This is especially important for Millennial employees — the future of any organization’s management force. One way Dan Schawbel suggests companies do this is by through flexible work options—that include vacation. Flexibility inherently shows your employees you trust them.

  1. Seek authenticity.

Sam Brown knows a thing or two about experiences. But as someone who travels and talks about travel for a living, even she is not immune to burnout. Her answer? Finding authenticity in her life by not looking at the past, creating rituals — like taking regular vacations to recharge — and doing things not because you have to, but because you think it will lead to something great.

  1. Even for a moment, replace exertion with thoughtfulness.

Not every vacation requires months of planning. But while Americans are often brilliant at process improvement, we’re lagging behind when it comes to thinking improvement.

In fact, as Juliet Funt notes, the first step to taking longer pauses, like vacation, is finding the “whitespace” that lies beneath the constant barrage of emails and meetings that are modern work.

“When talented people don’t have time to think, business inevitably suffers,” Funt explained. “It’s like we’re eating all day and never swallowing.”

We’re all working to solve the world’s biggest challenges. But we owe it to ourselves and our employees to address a challenge that’s in our hands — taking moments that are both recuperative and constructive, even if it’s truly just a moment. After all, tapping into the upside of downtime starts with just that: downtime.

Are you ready to take the lead?

If you missed the Forum, don’t worry, you can watch the recorded livestream here.

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