Category Archives: Business

Stress or Success?

In my last post we looked at the wellness benefits of taking all your Paid Time Off:  vacations and other opportunities to recharge  your batteries and generally lower your stress levels.

Now for some more help with Stress that can lead to Success – in all areas of life.

Stressed? Author and speaker Denis Waitley shares three guidelines to transform negative anxiety into positive success. Follow these rules and take action now to let go of your stress.

1. Accept the unchangeable

Everything that has happened in your life to this minute is unchangeable. It’s history. The greatest waste of energy is looking back at missed opportunities and lamenting past events.

Grudge collecting, getting even, harboring ill will and vengeful thinking do no good. Success is the only acceptable form of revenge.

By forgiving your trespassers—whoever or whatever they are—you become free to concentrate on going forward with your life and succeeding in spite of those detractors. You will live a rewarding and fulfilling life. Your enemies, on the other hand, will forever wonder how you went on to become so successful without them and in the shadow of their doubts.

Action idea: Write down on a sheet of paper things that happened in the past that bother you. Now crumple the paper into a ball and throw it. Really. This symbolizes letting go of past misfortunes.

2. Change the changeable

Change your reaction to what others say and do, and you can control your own thoughts and actions by dwelling on desired results instead of the penalties of failure.

The only real control you have in life is your immediate thought and action, and because most of what we do is a reflex—a subconscious habit—it’s wise not to act on emotional impulse. In personal relations, it is better to wait a moment until reason has the opportunity to compete with your emotions.

Action idea: Write down one thing you will do tomorrow to help you relax more during and after a stressful day.

3. Avoid the unacceptable

Go out of your way to get out of the way of intolerable or perilous behaviors and environments.

Take these examples: When people tailgate you on the freeway, change lanes. When there are loud, obnoxious people next to you at a restaurant, change tables or move locations. When someone is being a Debbie Downer, complaining about this and that, excuse yourself and walk away.

Always be on the alert for negative situations that can be dangerous to your health, personal safety, financial speculation and emotional relationships.

Action idea: What is one unacceptable habit you or others have that you will avoid starting tomorrow?

A little stress is good, too much stress is bad, and understanding it can be everything. Learn about the upside to stress and how you can harness everyday anxiety.

How Are Time Off and Wellness Connected?

Since being self-employed (well, in truth, since our business became highly successful!) Jenny and I have taken all the vacations (long and short) that we wanted. Even during my 23 years with IBM I always took ALL my vacation time – and in Europe we had plenty of that!

So this headline made me sit up and take notice:

40 Percent of American Workers Will Leave Paid Vacation Days Unused

The summer is over and I hope you, my readers, took ALL the vacation you were entitled to and used it well.

Unfortunately, all too many of us could be on vacation but choose not to be. That’s the striking finding of an important new study released by Travel Effect, an initiative of the U.S. Travel Association. Entitled “Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Paid Time Off?,” the study found that 40 percent of American workers will leave paid vacation days unused.

Even more revealing are the reasons respondents gave for leaving paid time off on the table. The four reasons cited the most are the dread of returning from a vacation to piles of work (40 percent), the belief that no one will be able to step in and do their job for them while they’re gone (35 percent), not being able to afford it (33 percent) and the fear of being seen as replaceable (22 percent).

“Americans suffer from a work martyr complex,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “In part, it’s because ‘busyness’ is something we wear as a badge of honor. But it’s also because we’re emerging from a tough economy and many feel less secure in their jobs. Unfortunately, workers do not seem to realize that forfeiting their vacation time comes at the expense of their overall health, well-being and relationships.”

In fact, not taking time off from work also comes at the expense of our performance at work. This study shouldn’t be an alarm bell just for workers but for employers too. Recent years have brought us a mountain of science about both the costs of burnout and overwork and the benefits of unplugging and recharging. In short, the long-term health and well-being of a company’s employees is going to impact the long-term health and well-being of the company’s bottom line.

We know, for instance, that, according to the World Health Organization, stress costs American businesses around $300 billion per year. Sleep deprivation tacks on another $63 billion.

Living a life in which we work all the time and never prioritize recharging simply isn’t sustainable — not for individuals, and not for companies either. As Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Projectputs it, “the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less.” He cites a 2006 internal study of Ernst and Young employees that found that for every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took, his or her performance ratings went up by 8 percent — nearly 1 percent per day of vacation. That means companies where employees are leaving two and three and four weeks of vacation on the table are foregoing an enormous productivity boost. The study also found that employees who took regular vacations were less likely to leave the company.

This shouldn’t be that surprising. Humans are wired to perform and then to recharge. “The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology,” Schwarz writes. “Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.” And that means on both the smaller, hour-to-hour scale and the larger time frame of week to week and month to month.

Of course, many of the changes that we so badly need in our workplace culture will have to come from the top. As we can see from the reasons employees give for not taking their paid vacation, employees do not seem to be getting a strong message from management of the importance of vacation and renewal time. This was also borne out by the Travel Effect study, which found that even though a whopping 95 percent of senior business leaders say they know the value of taking time off, 67 percent of employees say their company is either silent about taking vacation, sends mixed signals about it or even actively discourages it. And a third of senior leaders say they either never or rarely discuss taking vacation with their employees.

That’s DUMB business leaders!

Paid time off for employees – and encouraging them to use it – is a business strategy and investment with proven returns and has a direct connection to employee health and wellness, and productivity.