The Wisdom of Taking Time Off

This article on taking time off caught my eye on Twitter, and it seems to run counter to the general practice of working as hard as possible until you drop.

It gives the example of a top management consulting firm experimenting with the idea of giving their associates scheduled time off.

I have worked alongside one of the top management consulting firms, and I’ve had a short dose of near all-nighters, working until 3 a.m. on PowerPoint presentations for 8 a.m. meetings.  Sometimes, it would all be for naught. The unsuspecting client would cancel the meeting without realizing all the hard work they were negating … ouch.

Here is an excerpt  from the article:

It’s important to recognize that our experiments are not about reducing professionals’ commitments to their work and clients. We understand that the success of professional services firms depends on hardworking people who value the intensity of the work and are committed to their clients. They relish being in the thick of things, with all the learning and adrenaline buzz that engenders. What professionals don’t like is the bad intensity—having no control over their own work and lives, being afraid to ask questions that could help them better focus and prioritize, and generally operating in ways that are inefficient. Still, professionals accept the bad intensity without hesitation, believing it comes with the territory.

This only perpetuates a vicious cycle: Responsiveness breeds the need for more responsiveness. When people are “always on,” responsiveness becomes ingrained in the way they work, expected by clients and partners, and even institutionalized in performance metrics. There is no impetus to explore whether the work actually requires 24/7 responsiveness; to the contrary, people just work harder and longer, without considering how they could work better. Yet, what we discovered is that the cycle of 24/7 responsiveness can be broken if people collectively challenge the mind-set. Furthermore, new ways of working can be found that benefit not just individuals but the organization, which gains in quality and efficiency—and, in the long run, experiences higher retention of more of its best people.

Click here to be taken to the article: Making Time Off Predictable and Required.