Hound, Or Holiday?

As the end of the year approaches, some American workers are looking at the calendar and realizing that they once again haven’t used all of their allotted vacation time, and won’t be able to do so before another New Year’s Day rolls around.

1523383408931It’s a surprisingly common situation.  Polls and estimates indicate that U.S. workers are not taking as much as half of their permitted paid vacation days each year — benefits that are worth about $62 billion.  One study concluded that only 23 percent of employees used all of their permitted vacation time.  Another 23 percent used less than one-quarter of their allowed time off, 19 percent used between one-quarter and one-half of their vacation time, 16 percent used between one-half and three-quarters of their holiday allotment, and 9 percent took no vacation time at all.

Why aren’t people taking the time off that they’ve earned?  Believe it or not, one of the more common stated reasons for forgoing vacations is that it’s hard to arrange for pet care.  Other workers confess that they’re just worried about their jobs — whether it’s purported concern that nobody else can take care of their responsibilities while they are gone or fear that leaving might put their job in peril somehow.  In my experience, still others simply have the martyr complex, and like to portray to their co-workers and supervisors that although they in fact would prefer to take a vacation, they’re just too busy and important to actually do so.  (Here’s a tip for the martyrs out there:  no one believes you when you say that, and it’s irritating, besides.)

I long ago decided that vacations are important — in fact, as important as anything else about your job.  I think it’s crucial to take regular holidays to avoid job burnout and to remain fresh and engaged with your workplace responsibilities.  My practice is to always have a vacation somewhere on the upcoming calendar so there is something to look forward to, and as soon as I return from one I try to get the next one scheduled.  Otherwise, six months down the road you realize that you really could use some time off but your upcoming calendar is filled and there are no openings until months in the future — by which time you’re approaching a year since your last vacation.  That’s a pretty miserable way to live your life.

And by the way, there are lots of good facilities out there to take care of your pets, so you can’t use that as an excuse.  In fact, if you’ve gone months without taking a vacation, your pooch probably senses your mounting stress level and is finding you pretty hard to be around, anyhow.  A stay at the Pet Palace might be a holiday for Fido, too.

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Managing That Workplace “Vibe”

The New York Post reports that some companies and hotels are looking to hire people for a new kind of job with an evocative title:  “Vibe Manager.”

That would look pretty good on an office door sign, wouldn’t it?

img_6247-2“Vibe Managers” apparently are generally responsible for making employees feel good about the “vibe” at their workplace.  They’re supposed to plan parties and activities like scavenger hunts and other events for the workers, make playlists for office soundtracks, assist in recruiting “talent,” make sure everybody’s birthday is properly recognized, and consider whether the company should offer benefits like lunch-hour yoga and chair massages.  The position also might involve more mundane activities, like making sure that the office kitchen and coffee stations are stocked with healthy snacks.

Why, after decades of muddling through without them, do companies suddenly need a “Vibe Manager”?  Because surveys apparently show that 70 percent of American workers are not focused on their work and aren’t feeling “engaged.”  It’s interesting, too, that the solution to the lack of “focus” and “engagement” is to create a new job designed to make sure that the employer offers non-work activities that some naysayers might consider to be nothing more than frivolous window dressing.  Seriously, is a scavenger hunt really going to materially change a disgruntled employee’s perspective on his or her workplace?  If so, what does that say about the worker in the first place?

A workplace “vibe” seems to be a lot different from a workplace “culture.”  Many of the most successful companies in the history of capitalism have thrived because they established a culture that incorporated core concepts like excellence, teamwork, loyalty, pride, innovation, and quality — all concepts that, unlike a “vibe,” were directly related to, and directly supported, the company’s business activities.  Employees embraced and bought into the strong cultures of these successful companies and, so long as they were fairly compensated and evaluated, were satisfied and happy in their work because they felt that they were part of something larger that was doing something worthwhile.  It wasn’t office birthday parties that made the difference.

Any company that is worried about something superficial, like its “vibe,” probably isn’t sufficiently attentive to more fundamental issues like culture.  And that’s probably going to undercut the efforts to have a cool “vibe” down the road.  Anybody who’s ever experienced the “vibe” of a company that is going down the tubes knows what I mean.