Consultant: As Productivity Starts to Lag, Encourage Staff to Take Time Off

Consultant: As Productivity Starts to Lag, Encourage Staff to Take Time Off

Productivity is taking a hit as employees are continuing to work from home, a consultant asserts.

Sabina Nawaz, a CEO coach and keynote speaker, recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review that adrenaline boosted productivity when stay-at-home orders were first issued. Now, however, as working from home wears on, any ‘free time’ once spent commuting has been eaten up by meetings and the line between work and personal time gets fuzzier by the day.

Her clients are telling her that the pace feels frantic, work demands are rising and hours worked are soaring, yet stress and exhaustion are killing productivity. Nawaz asserts that managers are “deluding themselves” about their own and their team’s productivity.

“Companies are offering a range of wellness options but also vary in their policies about taking time off, from ‘we trust you, take care of what you need to’ to ‘take some of your allotted vacation time’ to ‘we need all hands on deck right now and we can figure out time off later.’ ”

While research shows that time off to recharge increases productivity, employees aren’t taking it. “With nowhere to go and much to adjust to, most people have cancelled not only their travel reservations but their time off as well,” Nawaz writes.

Nawaz surveyed clients and came up with six ways managers can encourage vacation time.

  • Provide clarity – Make sure everyone understands the time-off policy and offer employees information on government or health official guidance.
  • Redefine vacations – Encourage stay-at-home vacations that feature novelty, such as sketching, singing, flower arranging or camping on the deck.
  • Demonstrate care – Reinforce the often-repeated statement that people are your strongest asset by offering flexibility, such as informal breaks or fewer limits on vacation time. Show you understand that everyone’s home environments are different and that competing priorities take a toll, so workers will feel confident that taking time off is OK.
  • Model behaviors – Take time off yourself and share what you did. Employees will follow your lead. If you don’t do what you’re encouraging others to do, they won’t unplug either.
  • Change durations – Allow more frequent, shorter breaks because staff may benefit more from an immediate long weekend than waiting for a full week off far down the road.
  • Activate a team – Make sharing responsibilities part of the culture. Employees who know they’re covered are more likely to take time off.

Nawaz cited one of her CEO client’s advice: “Share the rules, show care, model the behaviors, and trust people to do the right thing.”

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