Vacations...And Why We Must Take Them

Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 21:00

The car has new tires. That pesky sprinkler valve leaks no more. Workmen have estimated the cost of upgrading to new, energy efficient windows. My annual physical exam was completed. Six new trailing rosemary plants grace our front yard slope.

Those are a sampling of a few things that occupied my time and attention during a recent two-week spring vacation. Others included sleeping late every morning, running for an hour every day in Pasadena’s lovely Arroyo Seco, visiting the new Broad Museum downtown with my younger son who was home from college, and escaping for a weekend to the coastal valleys north of Santa Barbara. I visited my aging mother and shared breakfast with my brother and his wife. I lazed by a friend’s Mt. Washington swimming pool, talking politics and poker strategy, as our families enjoyed Easter Sunday together.

It seems so mundane to say it, but time away from the rigors of work makes a remarkable difference in how things look upon returning to the office. A routine board meeting the day after coming back re-focuses and invigorates the whole thrust and purpose of the organization. Planning for a new initiative, advanced a few more steps in my absence by a capable colleague, reveals even more potential than was evident just a few short weeks ago. A discussion with consultants about staff compensation opens up possibilities for making a very good workplace even greater.

There is much talk about work-life balance, yet imbalance – as too many of us know – prevails in the American workplace. According to something called Project: Time Off, Americans used an average of 16 vacation days in 2014, down from 20 vacation days in 1976. The nonprofit sector, I know, is not immune. 

I know I’m still in that quiet moment between dawn and a new day, so permit me the reverie that comes of re-acquainting with a familiar place. It’s good to get away. It’s good to return. It’s especially grand to enjoy the perspective, even the occasional sprout of a new idea, that comes of time away and distance.

I think that’s an overlooked point of vacations, why we take them. They may matter to the mission as much as the actual work the mission demands.

Photos courtesy of Paul Vandeventer