Scale back to scale up
By David DeWolf
Most of us don’t know how to take a break. Summer vacations and holiday weekends don’t really give us the down time we need to recharge our batteries, clear our minds, and optimize performance.
Over the past several years, books like Deep Work and Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less have demonstrated the flaws in this approach. We seem to value being busy, and research shows it’s killing productivity.
I’ll admit that I’m the biggest culprit. Too often, I stay immersed in work, checking in and staying abreast of what’s going on back at the office, even well after “normal” working hours.
I love what I do. The software development company I founded, 3Pillar Global, has been recognized for rapid growth by Inc. Magazine seven of the last eight years. Like everyone, I’m not immune to the rush of adrenaline or endorphins that come from hearing the “ding” signifying a new email in my inbox. But I can see very clearly how my performance deteriorates when I don’t get enough rest -- and how my actions encourage others to take on the same bad habits.
As leaders we have to be especially careful of the tone we set from the top.
Here are four things that business leaders can do to encourage colleagues to rest.
1. Kick folks out of the office
I make it a point to roam the halls on my way out of the office -- especially when I’m in late. When I see the same folks in the office night after night, I make it a point to ask when they are leaving.
Managers need to make it clear that it’s okay for folks to go home, have dinner, and get a good night’s sleep. If our teammates see us working late, they may come to believe that’s what it takes to be successful.
2. Refrain from Sending Weekend Messages
I have a bad habit of using my weekend to “catch up on life.” Unfortunately, by life, I often mean the backlog of emails that have piled up.
When I respond over the weekend, I am sending a message that this type of activity is expected and encouraged. So these days, I schedule my weekend emails to go out on Monday mornings.
3. Encourage Real Vacations
There are vacations and there are vacations. A true vacation happens when you completely unplug.
So when teammates take time off, set the expectation that they check out and get off the grid.
To do this, require everyone to designate a backstop. Who is handling their business while they are gone? Is it their manager, a peer, or one of their direct reports?
Requiring everyone to delegate their authority while they are out ensures healthy empowerment and organizational design.
4. Promote Holidays
This past Memorial Day, I sent a message to the team reminding them of why we had expanded the holiday to be a four-day weekend. In this message, I reminded everyone why rest is important:
“There are very few of us that truly have urgent things we need to do this weekend. I hope all of you are able to turn off, clear your heads, and enjoy a little down time. Don’t be shy about turning off your computer’s power. Enjoy the sunshine!”
I was amazed that I received 17 responses applauding the message. Folks obviously appreciated having “permission” to truly unplug.
Business leaders can – and should – set an example with healthy work habits. So this summer, be sure to encourage your colleagues to rest.
David DeWolf is the founder and CEO of 3Pillar Global, a global custom software and digital product development company in Fairfax, Virginia.