7 ways managers can help employees take meaningful time off and avoid burnout

Managers can help employees take time out

Hybrid work has many advantages, but also challenges when it comes to maintaining connections required for trust and high performance.

Navigating time off in the new normal of hybrid and remote work amidst work from home and caregiving duties can bring up new stressors and challenges that make it harder to disconnect. Although people are always connected with technology, loneliness figures suggest that employees still lack meaningful connections and engagement.

In addition, employees often report feeling stress around holiday periods. They don’t want to burden others on the team, and many often juggling the needs of family members, children and elderly parents.

Studies show us that extended periods of working without a true break can hinder mental health and create stress. And even though other research shows that not taking a holiday can stifle productivity and creativity, it can be hard to step away and let go of the purposeful connections around a project.

Even when we want to disconnect, most people want to know they are not leaving anyone or anything hanging. However, with deliberate intentions and strategic planning, the challenges that come with breaks and holidays can also be an opportunity to cultivate meaningful connections, trust and engagement for the many weeks that follow periods of time off.

How do you foster engagement and motivation, while honouring your employees’ work life goals and time away from work duties?

Here are seven habits managers can use to help navigate the challenges that employees face while taking time off from hybrid and remote work:

1. Lead by example.

Start by evaluating your own energy and assess whether you are taking time off regularly. By taking time off yourself, you give others on your team permission to do the same. This allows your team to collectively reap the benefits of what a break can do for your energy, relationships and wellbeing.

2. Demonstrate care for your team by showing interest in your employees’ holidays.

Ask about what they’re doing, their ideas of fun, and what vision they have for their break. Use the subject of them taking a holiday as an opportunity to get to know them better if they are open to it and to care for their needs outside of work.

3. Proactively assess and address stress.

Remember that while holidays are meant to be fun, they can be a source of stress for your employees – for personal and professional reasons.

Inquire about specific sources of stress on your team and help alleviate them. Time off work can be complicated and difficult to pull off when there are multiple family members involved, so don’t assume that everything is flip flops and sunsets when it comes to this part of planning.

4. Develop an out of office plan.

Plan out the logistics of how an employee’s work will be covered while they are gone. And don’t wait until the week before their holiday, ideally the conversation would start a few weeks in advance.

Building out the strategy can ease employee concerns and anxiety about stepping away from work. A well crafted OoO (Out of Office) reply can go a long way in easing stress, plus it inspires more open communication and connection with colleagues that will pay dividends prior to and after the time off.

5. Create a communications plan.

Develop a plan to customise communications according to employee needs. Some want to disconnect completely while they’re on holiday, while others want to retain at least a little bit of connection because work can be a powerful anchor.

Regardless of the plan, it can be important to encourage at least some device-free time. Help your team get clear on their level of connection needs while they are gone and then begin to plan and prepare for that level in advance.

6. Leverage employee experiences around time off to create greater connection.

Invite others to share their ideal holiday, highlights and memories as a means of building team flow, rapport and empathy. Rally your team members and have open discussions about connection needs and preferences. Use individual preferences as an opportunity for getting to know one another while building open communication and clearer expectations.

When they return, consider creating a Teams or Slack channel to host photos/memories or allow time for employees to share a memory or experience during their next team meeting.

7. Create a transition plan for easing back into work.

We’ve all heard about the Sunday blues or needing a holiday from a holiday. Many hard-working employees plan their reprieve for that distant time off while ignoring wellbeing needs in the day-to-day. But employees who experience chronic stress often plan a trip to paradise only to get sick when they arrive.

Our transitions into and out of a period of time off often matter just as much as the holiday itself. Encourage employees to make time for activities that energize them and to consider an easing back into the office auto-reply that lets people know their needs will be addressed and when.

Why meaningful time off work is vital

As the lines between work and life continue to shift and evolve, it’s more important than ever to be clear on what employees need to recharge. Taking meaningful time off is a collaborative endeavour that managers can model and promote on their teams.

By implementing the above strategies, you can make it more likely that your employees fully enjoy their time off work in ways that are meaningful to them. Promoting employee rest and recovery will help boost engagement, promoting team performance and a flourishing workforce in the process.

This is a guest post by Dr. Noémie Le Pertel, CEO at the Institute for Global Flourishing and Senior Fellow and  founding chair for the Economics of Wellbeing and Global Human Flourishing working group at the Human Flourishing Network, housed at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

She is passionate about empowering people to create flourishing in life and at work and driving systems-level transformation with a lens on human sustainability. This article is republished with permission from the World Economic Forum. You can read the original article here.

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