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The importance of taking vacation time

Ensuring stressed out managers take time off, delegate, avoid micromanaging

By Brian Kreissl

Having just returned from vacation in Florida, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the importance of taking vacation and time off work. A week of sun, sand, swimming, sightseeing and theme parks was just what I needed to relax and recharge my batteries.

Before I left, I was feeling a bit stressed out. I was also feeling really tired, run-down and generally a bit “blah.”

While I still have tons of work to do — and more than 300 e-mail messages to go through as a result of being out of the office — I’m now able to return to my work projects and household chores and attack them with renewed vigour and vitality.

I thought I would feel a bit depressed returning to the cold weather and my work, household responsibilities and credit card bills, but somehow I feel a lot more upbeat than I thought.

Not thinking about work

My upbeat mood is at least partially because I spent nine days away from the office and made a conscious effort not to think about work. I didn’t even bring my BlackBerry or check my e-mail or voicemail once.

(One interesting thing my wife and I both noticed in Florida was very few people — and this included the locals, most of whom weren’t on vacation — seemed obsessed with checking their PDAs or texting and e-mailing every five minutes. Are Canadians particularly bad when it comes to “Crackberry addiction?”)

Anyway, before I left, I had a meeting with my team and made sure they had everything they needed. I also delegated follow up on all important unfinished business to one person.

While there were a couple of minor hiccups while I was gone, there were no major catastrophes. Only one minor communication glitch could have been prevented if I’d been in the office, and it wasn’t at all the fault of anyone on my team.

I’m proud of my team, as well as myself for trusting my team members and delegating effectively. It’s much better to give people the tools to do the job and trust them to do it effectively rather than micromanaging them from afar.

Potential legal liabilities for not taking vacation

Given the very real benefits to one’s physical and mental health that come from taking a vacation, it’s hard to believe many people don’t take all the vacation time owed to them. In many cases, employers need to do a better job in making people take their vacations for at least two reasons.

First of all, if someone feels their job is so important or stressful they can’t take time off, there’s clearly something wrong, and the employer needs to step in to lessen the person’s workload and provide guidance on effective time management and prioritization, or provide the necessary training — either to the employee concerned, or if she is a manager, to her direct reports so they can be more independent and proactive.

Failure to deal with such situations can cause high levels of stress, anxiety and burnout, and can ultimately lead to increased absenteeism, workers’ compensation claims, sick leave, bullying, harassment and constructive dismissal litigation.

Secondly, depending on the length of vacation entitlement, employers that allow employees to forgo their vacations may be falling afoul of employment standards legislation, which generally mandates employees take the minimum amount of vacation time owing to them under the law. And employers with a “use it or lose it” policy with respect to vacation time may also find they are contravening the applicable legislation and/or individual employment contracts or collective agreements.

If an employee refuses to take his allotted vacation time, the employer can, and in fact should, force him to take time off. This can be dealt with by carefully monitoring vacation time and communicating with employees and their managers to ensure vacation is actually taken during the year (or during a carry-over period into the next vacation year). In extreme cases, an employer may even need to schedule vacation time on the employee’s behalf and insist he actually takes the time off.

Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at For more information, visit  

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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