RevolvingDoorIt’s time to end the eternal workweek.

If you took a vacation this summer, how did you spend it? Did you actually unplug from work and enjoy yourself? If you’re like most Americans, while you were playing with your kids or laughing with your spouse, there was a little voice in your head whispering, “Check your email.”

According to job-finding site Glassdoor, the average U.S. employee only takes half of his or her eligible paid time off. And when employees do take personal time or go on vacation, 61 percent admit to doing some work while off the clock.

That’s a problem for sales teams, not only because reps are wasting their hard-earned time off, but because they’re losing out on the productivity gains that come from decompressing. Studies show that employees who take vacation time—real vacation time—experience an 82-percent increase in job performance and have a lower turnover rate than their overworked counterparts.

Unplug or Come Undone

Even during a normal workweek, it’s important to disconnect from work occasionally. But most of us don’t. We’ve been conditioned so that when we send an email on Sunday afternoon, we expect a response immediately. Send an email at midnight? Somebody should be awake to answer it. Why? Would you call people at that hour? Would you go to their houses and ring their doorbells?

Working 24/7 has become the norm. We hear people say they’re struggling with work/life balance. Really? There’s no such thing. We’ve created our own revolving door. Go in, come out, go in, and go around.

Stop the Madness

We have to stop. Now. Think it’s impossible? Not really. Companies in Europe and Canada have done it—without any loss of productivity.

In his New York Times op-ed article, “End the Tyranny of 24/7 Email,” Clive Thompson writes:

You might envy the serene workers at Daimler, the German automaker. On vacations, employees can set their corporate email to “holiday mode.” Anyone who emails them gets an auto-reply saying the employee isn’t in, and offering contact details for an alternate, on-call staff person. Then poof, the incoming email is deleted — so that employees don’t have to return to inboxes engorged with digital missives in their absence. “The idea behind it is to give people a break and let them rest,” a Daimler spokesman told Time magazine. “Then they can come back to work with a fresh spirit.”

Limiting workplace email seems radical, but it’s a trend in Germany, where Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have adopted policies that limit work-related email to some employees on evenings and weekends. If this can happen in precision-mad, high-productivity Germany, could it happen in the United States? Absolutely. It not only could, but it should. (Read the rest of the article.)

When we work around the clock, we lose focus on our priorities, because everything comes at us at once. We get overwhelmed. We think we’re drinking from a fire hose, when the reality is that we’re just drowning. We don’t get enough sleep. We get sick. We make bad decisions, and those close to us are the last to get our attention. We’ve negotiated away our family time, and our kids are left clamoring for our attention. It’s gotten out of control.

It’s time for those of us in the U.S. to take a lesson from our neighbors across the pond. Unplug, disconnect, and take the time you need to be a functioning person. Then worry about being a great salesperson.


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