Don’t Let ‘Busy’ Be Your Status

Work martyrdom seldom makes you more productive. Take a vacation instead.

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Maybe you know this person (or are this person) at work: When asked how things are going, the answer is not “good” or “bad” but “busy!” In fact, the signaling power of busyness and focus on productivity has become so strong for many, that workcations, or vacations where employees remain tethered to work, are on the rise and an entire generation has become associated with burnout.

Technology is a big culprit here. While technology has revolutionized work in many beneficial ways, it also allows us to ping, email, tweet, text, DM, just about anything we want from our coworkers at any time. And often, no amount of do-not-disturb settings or healthy, mindful practices seems to ease the pressure of an always-on work culture. Time famine — the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it — is another major contributor to stress, with roughly 4 in 10 Americans reporting they don’t have enough time in the day to complete necessary tasks.

While conventional wisdom might say that the work martyrs who suffer through all-nighters will triumph to climb the ladder in the end, research actually shows that those who take advantage of their time off are more likely to receive promotions.

As counterintuitive as it may seem when work feels overwhelming and time feels scarce, the best thing to do is often to simply log off and get away.

1. Log off and unplug. According to a 2017 report by Project Time Off that studied U.S. workers, on average, only “1 in 4 (27%) employees actually unplug on vacation and nearly 8 in 10 (78%) say they are more comfortable taking time off if they know they can access work.” This number plummets when it comes to senior leadership, with only 7% of executives completely unplugging on vacation and the majority checking in with work at least once a day. These kinds of practices can quickly erode company culture as they send the message to other employees and direct reports that their time off is not, in fact, time off.

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