Marissa Levin
CEO, speaker and writer

Marissa Levin

Founder and CEO of Information Experts, a 15-year-old strategic communications, human capital, and training consulting firm. Nationally known speaker and writer, and an expert on how to build a successful business while building a fulfilling life.



Q: The South Korean government has a problem: Employees are working too much. The average government worker takes only six of 23 vacation days a year. How important is time off? Does productivity suffer or rise when workers forego time off? Should those who opt not to take it be forced to? And does this problem exist in the States?

The topic of forcing employees to take vacation time is complicated and controversial.

As a business owner, I've tried to work with a use-it-or-lose-it policy to force people to take time off. But truth be told, occasionally employees have had to forego vacation time because of deadlines. It doesn't feel good for them or for me, but it happens sometimes. So invariably we allow employees to carry time over. I strive to create a culture that enables work-life balance and sometimes I am more successful at achieving this than other times.

I believe a total disconnect from the workplace is not only healthy; I believe it is essential for mental health and also critical for employees to avoid resentment and burnout. But this is so much easier said than done.

As a business owner, I feel like I am "on" 24-7. We're always stressed about something. There's always a challenge brewing in our minds. My work day often blurs into my evening.

Even when we book annual summer vacations, I bring my laptop to stay connected and current with email, even though I have a fantastic executive team to support me and handle things in my absence. I'm not proud of this practice, and I don't advocate it. I justify this by telling myself that I will be too stressed out and overwhelmed if I hold off on everything until I return. I just can't let it go. So I definitely don't follow what I think is the best solution or healthiest practice.

However, I fully respect the boundaries of my employees when they are on vacation. I don't call or email. I want them to have time away from the business because they've definitely earned it and they need a break.

I do think productivity suffers when employees don't take vacation. And I think happiness and overall mental health suffers when they don't take vacation -- which is even more important. Even if they just plan to be away from the office for a few days -- to totally disconnect and feel for a brief time that they are not accountable to anyone at work -- I think this is really important.

I actually took a two-month sabbatical two years ago. I totally disconnected. I had hit a wall. I had nothing left to give. I delegated all of my duties and unplugged. I needed time to recharge, and everyone adjusted. I don't foresee being able to do that any time in the future, and fortunately I am not in a place where I need to do it. But I have learned to schedule "play days" with friends, and days by myself just to re-group. It definitely helps.

By Marissa Levin  |  April 18, 2010; 5:17 PM ET  | Category:  work and play Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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