I've always hated taking days off from work. Just because I'm out of the office doesn't mean my workload stops. Taking a few days off can seem fun at first, but I may return to a cluttered inbox and a stack of assignments waiting to be completed.
During the first five years of my career, I probably took no more than 5-6 sick days combined. This year alone, I believe I've used at least four. After missing one day of work, my boss called me that evening to check and see how I was feeling. I replied that I felt a little bit better, was about to take some more medicine and would try to make it to work the next day.
His response shocked me. He said, "Take your time, rest and don't come back until you feel better. We need you operating at 100%, not 60."
I never considered sick time in that manner. I always considered it a badge of honor to work through sickness. I'm a big sports fan, and some of the greatest athletes are respected because of their willingness to play through injuries. But doing so can sometimes hurt the team more than it helps.
After having this epiphany, I did some research and realized I was not alone in my reluctance to take off from work.
A recent study indicated American workers failed to use 429 million days of their allocated time off in 2013. This leads to the obvious question…why?
The report offered several potential reasons:
- 40% of workers claim their employers support time off, but their heavy workloads deter them from using all of their paid leave
- 34% of employees reported their employers did not encourage or discourage the use of paid leave
- 17% of managers consider employees less dedicated if they use all of their paid leave
The study also suggested that taking paid leave leads to higher productivity, lower turnover and health-related benefits. I'm grateful my boss recognizes this and encourages my teammates and me to use our time when needed.
As ethical leaders, it is important to let your team members know not only do you value their contributions at work, but you also value their well-being as people. Doing so will help build loyalty, trust and respect.
As the summer months approach, I hope you and your coworkers find time to take a few days off to enjoy the weather. Taking a break could be the most beneficial work activity you do all summer. So relax, unwind and recharge, so you operate at 100% of your potential.
Always remember, Leadership is a Lifestyle.
— Ryan W. Hirsch
Program Manager, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)