A group photo in Dubai

A group photo in Dubai

…So I recently returned from a 7-day vacation in Dubai (not including the 24+ hours spent in flight roundtrip). It was the longest vacation I’ve taken in at least a decade, I spent it with my closest friends… and because of the 9-hour time differential and spotty network access, for much of that time I was truly ‘unplugged’ and effectively removed from day-to-day work.

…Much has been written about the benefits of time off, and some of the executives I respect most in the world swear by the powerful rejuvenating effects of white space. Ergo, as an HR pro and Benefits Manager I found myself reflecting on these promulgations upon my return to the U.S. A few thoughts on the pros/cons of extended time away:

1. It helped me recognize the importance of sleep.

I’d been getting by on just 5-6 hours a night for so long that I’d forgotten how much more highly I function on 8-9 hours of uninterrupted rest. When I get a full night’s sleep I exercise better judgment, am more articulate, more agreeable, and – perhaps most importantly – more disciplined and less prone to unforced errors. With no early morning obligations (and a set of highly effective hotel blackout curtains), for a week straight I slept with no alarm clock and let my body wake me up. And since coming back to work (and the states) I’ve continued those habits because I’ve felt so much better when doing so.

2. The time off helped me break bad habits.

Over time we all fall into routines, and I am as guilty as anyone. Some of my habits around diet, work hours, work style, and even morning and night time rituals were sub-optimal, and stepping away from those habits allowed me to identify opportunities for growth and change accordingly.

3. The time away helped me to think more strategically about the HR function.

As we become comfortable in our roles, sometimes we become overly focused on tactical, short term goals as opposed to taking a longer term view. A greater focus starts to be placed on satisfying the expectations of our key stakeholders and constituencies in the present as opposed to thinking about how we can really make a lasting impact. Getting some distance from work helped me think about what I can do differently to affect real changes

But on the downside…

4. I have never had such a massive backlog of emails in my career.

Fortunately, I work with a great team that made sure anything of real urgency was addressed in my absence. But it still took quite a while to catch up…

5. When I got back, I really needed a few days to recover from my vacation, but returned immediately to work.

Next time I will structure that a bit differently…

^To the above point, it’s approaching end of day Friday, so I am going to now get some much needed rest. 🙂