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How to Help Your Team (& You) Take Time Off (Guilt Free)

Updated: Jan 8

out of office

As I write this we’re nearing the end of the year, but this topic really is relevant anytime. However, particularly around holidays and summer vacations, this topic seems to surface and can turn what should be fun and relaxation into stress and anxiety. Let’s talk about taking time off. 

Right now, a lot of your team members are likely preparing to take time off next week...and they are nervous about it.

They are worried about their responsibilities.

They are worried about how it looks to their leaders (ie., YOU).

They are worried about their work piling up.

They are worried about the company, their team, their targets, etc. etc.

Why? Because they care.

Do them a favor and make sure they take the time - for real. What does that look like?

No checking in. No messages. No emails. Unplug! Give them permission to unplug guilt free.

Now you might be thinking - I give my team permission to take time off. Heck, I even encourage it. And while that’s a good start, it’s not enough. The way to help your team truly take time off is not just giving them permission, it’s making it a policy. 

The way to help your team truly take time off is not just giving them permission, it’s making it a policy. 

Literally, make it a policy, not a suggestion. Document for them just like you would any other policy, what the expectations are for time off. This not only validates your “permission”, but it can dramatically reduce the guilt and anxiety they may be feeling. 

The result: they get the benefits of the time away they need, deserve, and have earned. And the business will benefit when they return fully rested and ready to rock and roll. 

Ah, but that’s not the end of the story. (yep, you knew this was coming)

You play a role in this policy too. You need to lead by example because you probably need the time off too - maybe more! So fair is fair. You give them permission, so you need to give yourself permission. 

The same rules apply: No checking in. No messages. No emails. Unplug!

Now, as a leader, you may feel that same sense of guilt and anxiety so there are a few things I’ve done to help with this:

  1. Share with your: if you report to or are accountable to someone (leader/boss/partner),  talk through it with them. Let them know when, how long, and how you plan to take the time (ie., unplug). You’ll likely get the response “Yeah, you should do that!” to which you will also feel a sense of relief. 

  2. Share with your team: if you are the CEO or primary leader, turn to your team. Sharing your struggle with this will help them help you. And set an amazing example. Don’t be surprised when you get some private thank you messages after you reveal your intention to take time off the way you want them to!

  3. Share with your loved ones: look no further than your spouse, partner, family, kids, friends, whoever. The ones that love you outside of work. Not only will they help you see how important this is, but also how much they appreciate it. So, now you get the win-win feeling and who doesn’t love that?!

  4. Set some time off goals: need to feel productive? Great, make a list of all the fun stuff you are going to do. And just as fun, a list of what you will not do! (note: try to avoid the trap of fitting in every side project, catch-up task, or honey-do-list item you have been saving into your limited time off. This is about recovery, and taking care of yourself is productive.) (sub-note: my wife has to tell me #4 every time so thought I’d include it just in case) 

So, if you struggle to take time off, just know you are not alone. Your leaders, your peers, your mentors, and your team members likely have the same challenge. It shows up in different ways, but it's important to address it.

Take care of your team, then take care of yourself. 

And now…go take your time off!


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