4 Reasons Leaders Should Take Time Off

Janelle Jackiw

As leaders, many of us like the idea of taking time off, but we often hesitate to take a break when we move into leadership or supervisory roles. This is unfortunate, since not only have we earned that time off – it’s likely required for our well-being.

Leaders often have the misassumption that they are indispensable to their team or organization and that being away would be a risk to their workplace. While there is no doubt that leaders are valuable, we become less effective when we are tired and stressed because we haven’t taken the opportunity to refresh.

While there is no doubt that leaders are valuable, we become less effective when we are tired and stressed because we haven’t taken the opportunity to refresh.

We are not good to anyone, including ourselves, if we do not nurture our well-being by taking the time needed to relax and re-energize. Here are four ways leaders can benefit from taking time off:

Generate New Ideas

When we engage in new activities and give our brains a rest from the pattern of thinking required in our workplaces, we actually become more productive and often generate new ideas for future work. Similar to how our bodies require rest so that we have more energy the next day, the same is true for our brains. Leaders need to rest so we can continue to think effectively, and often times, at a higher level.

Research has shown that being able to rest provides an optimal environment for creativity. Instead of being on your work phone or computer during your vacation break, bring a journal to capture some of the ideas or projects you come up with while you are away. While you can’t be expected to completely stop thinking about work, being in a more relaxed state allows you to think differently about it!

While you can’t be expected to completely stop thinking about work, being in a more relaxed state allows you to think differently about it!

Model Good Behaviour

We need to be aware that staff are watching our behaviour and hopefully trying to emulate what it takes to be a leader. But part of being a leader means modelling healthy behaviour both personally and professionally, which includes valuing and demonstrating a healthy work–life balance. Some of us get so caught up in work that we sometimes forget about what’s truly important – taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Doing so helps us be the best version of ourselves not only for us, but for our families and organizations as well.

The message you send to others when you don’t take time off is that work is more important than your personal life, and perhaps others shouldn’t take time off either. When you take a break, it gives you the chance to relax, create memories with loved ones, and it reminds you that life isn’t all about work. It also sends the message that others should do the same.

Empower Others to Manage Without You

When we take time off to invest in our own well-being, we are also sending a message that we trust our staff to handle things while we’re away. By empowering staff to take the reins, we provide them with learning opportunities to develop their skills and enhance their own career development.

Through these opportunities, you can foster within your employees a sense of confidence and assurance that they can manage things just fine – even if only for a short time – without your direct support, assistance, or oversight. With this demonstration of trust and confidence, you can continue to build important professional connections with your team and show them that they are respected and valued.

Prevent Burnout

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Unfortunately, many leaders do not take proper care of their mental and physical health, which can lead to feelings of burnout. When we make time off a priority to relax and enjoy activities outside of work, even if it’s just reading a book or doing a “staycation,” it benefits our short- and long-term mental health and wellness. This also means that that we get out of the habit of responding to our work-related emails and calls or participating in “short meetings.”

When you disconnect from your work environment, you should do exactly that – disconnect. While it may take a few days to unwind and you may feel additional stress by not being in the loop (also known as FOMO), you start to establish a new routine. As you start to experience a new sense of well-being and relaxation, it can heal your mind and body from stress.

Giving your brain and body a break from your regular routine makes you a better leader and role model for your staff.

Whether it’s the winter holidays, summertime, or any point in between, taking the time to rest and refresh is essential to your overall well-being and the well-being of your organization. It doesn’t mean you won’t think about work, but giving your brain and body a break from your regular routine makes you a better leader and role model for your staff. It also ensures that you can continue to perform at a high level when you return. In essence, you actually become better when you take some time off!


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Author: Janelle Jackiw
Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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