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Sachin Sharma, a Senior Marketing Associate with a FMCG brand has not taken a break from work for the last two years. He fears that his peers may take advantage of his absence and tarnish his image before the boss.
"No employee is indispensable." It seems to be the mantra for a growing number of young professionals, who for the fear of losing their job, are not going on leave for extended periods of time. There are however repercussions of taking the cliche a little too seriously.
We look at this growing trend from the perspective of the employees and the Human Resource stakeholders.
Reasons for the growing trend
Indians are known globally for being hard workers, however, sometimes we tend to stretch this aspect. Sometimes employees are insecure and try to build a 'safety net' around them and not taking any breaks is a reflection of this fear.
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"A well-deserved vacation may turn into a permanent break is often the perception that a lot of professionals have," says Sridhar Ramamurthy, an HR Manager with a New Delhi-based real estate firm. Employees are also apprehensive about the economic downturn and want to hold on to their jobs closely.
Physical presence is not equal to mental presence
Organisations want employees who are emotionally engaged rather then just being physically present on all working days. So, we must learn to let go of the schoolboy-ish mentality, when we got rewarded for just being present. To put things in proper perspective -- by all means recognise the seriousness of attendance however don't be mentally overburdened by trying to prove a point to co-workers or other professional colleagues by not taking any breaks. "There are brownie points for performance and not attendance," says Sanjay Kumar, a senior manager with a leading Noida-based BPO.
Learn to manage better
Every day employees are judged by their ability to manage projects, priorities and deadlines. An organisation's success (and your own career success) depends, to a great degree, upon your skill in getting things done -- on time and with the desired result.
Find out as soon as possible what your company and manager expect from you. This will include using your people (interpersonal communication) and technical skills (the knowledge, skills and abilities that make you a sought after professional).
Once you determine what's expected of you, decide how you will accomplish it and share the plan of action with your seniors. Once they have the confidence in your abilities to finish tasks on time, you will feel a lot less guilty in going for that much deserved vacation.
Also, keep your colleagues and subordinates informed about your break. "A lot of managers take the vacation approvals from their seniors however do not inform their subordinates in advance. This creates a chaotic scenario in the team when the boss goes on a leave.
"Incidents like these discourage the management to approve leaves easily. We need to bring changes in the organisational culture so that people can plan their leaves and still ensure that their teams don't drop the ball in their absence," says Joseph Kurien, an HR consultant.
The benefits of a break
Your mind reacts to its surroundings and has an uncanny ability to generate new ideas when the physical setting changes. You may be thinking in a very linear and academic way while you are at your workstation every day of the week. For all you know, a vacation may bring you the inspiration you need.
"I was always struggling to meet deadlines and often ended up working on weekends to cover up. I did not take any breaks for 16 months fearing a job loss and wondered why I am not making the cut inspite of working harder then most of my colleagues. A discussion with my boss made me realise that the real issue was my poor time management skills and unless I improve on that front, I will continue to feel overworked in any job. I followed his advice and got promoted within eight months. I have also taken two short vacations in the last 10 months and have got over my fear and guilt of being away from work," says Nitin Desai, a business analyst with a Gurgaon-based KPO.
Give equal importance to your personal time
Share and treat responsibilities at home with the same urgency and importance as you do for the projects at work. Most people tend to postpone simple responsibilities like spending time with their spouse, in-laws and children. Don't act out of guilt, but start respecting your personal life.
Give quality time to yourself. It is important to introspect and be in sync with your well-being, and keep evolving as an individual at all times. And do not compromise on the quality of your life and relationships. Clubbing professional and personal commitments in the name of multitasking is a sure shot recipe for disaster.
"When employees learn the importance of work-life balance, they automatically start taking structured breaks from work in order to rejuvenate," says Nikita Khanna, a director with a Hyderabad-based IT firm.
Use technology to get over your guilt
Although it's not recommended that you take work with you while on a vacation, if your job demands that you stay connected with your team, technology can come to your rescue. Internet on the move, Blackberry devices etc can certainly make that vacation possible afterall, a vacation with a few interruptions is better then no vacation at all.
Now that you know how to go about it, go and take that break that you so deserve.
The writer is a managing partner at WCH Training Solutions, a New Delhi-based training and consulting firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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