Today's focus: Managing time off

Here we are at the halfway point of 2002. Have you taken vacation yet? Has your staff? If the answer is "No" or "A little" it's time to start planning.

Taking vacation sure sounds like an easy concept: Pick a date range, tell your coworkers and don't come into work. But when you factor in all the prep work, it's easy to see why we put it off. First, you need to figure out when you can take a vacation. If you're in the middle of a project, proposal or other endeavor, it's difficult to get up and go. Then there's all of the work of letting everyone know you're going, figuring out coverage schedules, training folks to cover for you and getting any pressing matters completed. Is it just me, or does it seem like we work 80 hours the week before our vacation? If you didn't need time off when you planned your vacation, you certainly will after prepping for it.

While delaying a vacation may seem like the best thing to do as an employee - holding the corporate welfare above our own - it's actually counterproductive. Vacation is a necessary part of your work life and is key to one's health and well-being.

You need that time away from the office to recharge and renew yourself. Much like a cell phone, if you never shut it off, it will stop working.

A recent research report, "Vacation Habits of Working Adults," underscores the importance of time off. Research firm Xylo polled 1,000 adults about how they feel vacations affect their productivity. Ninety-four percent of those polled said that time away from work makes them more productive; 70% said it makes them feel much more productive.

Taking time off will not only benefit you, it will also benefit your employees. Sure, they may have some extra work to handle with you gone, but you will be modeling good vacation-taking behaviors. The act of taking time off will signal to your folks that you value vacation time and want them to do the same. It's hard to make your staff workaholics take vacation if you don't either. And while you're being so good to yourself, do yourself one more favor: Untether yourself from the office. Shut off your phone, ditch your BlackBerry, forget your voice mail password and pretend you can't access e-mail.