Know when to take a break from work

We’ve all been there – you’ve been dealing with personal matters for a number of weeks, yet you’ve maintained the same workload.  Perhaps you haven’t even told co-workers who you trust what’s been going on, because of the gravity of the matter.

Why?  Maybe you were attempting to maintain some semblance of normalcy or maybe because you don’t want your co-workers to perceive you as a weaker person.  Nonetheless, at some point your mind gives up and you struggle to behave as professionally as you intend.

Maybe you get a little sensitive to jokes made at work or you begin to doubt the motives of your co-workers.  Perhaps you start taking naps at your desk while facing your computer, or maybe the co-workers you doubted begin asking if your situation at home has changed.  Whatever the reason, the result is clear: you’ve been suppressing the issues related to a personal matter for too long and you need to take time off.

You may think that the challenge is deciding when the right time would be to ask, but in reality, the biggest challenge is walking into your manager’s office, describing the situation, and making your request.

If you’re concerned about …

Your co-workers:  remember how much time you spend with them at work; they know you well.  They could probably feel when your personal issues began, but chose to wait until you thought it was appropriate to speak about the issue.

Your job being there when you return:  create a plan and discuss a timeline of your return with your boss.  Perhaps you don’t need to leave today, but you decide that your mind will be at ease if in one week, you can take a three-week leave.  By bringing a plan such as this to your boss` it shows that you respect the leave process, and do care about your work.

Your income: short-term disability may not be able to cover 100% of your pay but it is likely to cover at least 60%.  If this is not available, consider using whatever vacation pay you have, or even deciding to save money for one month, then going on a leave without pay.

Geraldine Sangalang is an HR pro working at the Robson Square Courthouse.  She volunteers as a BC HRMA GV CAN Networking Co-Chair, as well as a recruiter for Meaningful Volunteer.  On her private time, Geraldine loves scrapbooking, hiking, kayaking, and dining out with friends.


I tune out work during vacation. Does that make me a slacker?

Ok folks, I know it feels like I’ve fallen off the planet (at least my guilt tells me so).  I haven’t responded to work emails for two weeks, posted anything on this blog or even batted an eyelash at LinkedIn, though I’ll admit I responded to some emails on LinkedIn because there is no “out of office” notification available and I didn’t want to publicize to the world on my status update that I was MIA.

I know Agata had a few opinions on defining your own work-life balance; she found the 40 hour work week limiting.  My take?  I find time away from work refreshing.  When my vacation time comes, I say “Just Check Out” (enter Nike swosh!).  OK, I’ll admit I snuck in a half day of work in there because I didn’t want to bail on my colleagues…  I had promised to get a few things done before I took off and simply didn’t get to them in-office.

The media is all over the need to take time away from work to maintain health and productivity and I’ll back that up.  Unplugging is vital for my sanity.  Oh, remember the days when you couldn’t check your voicemail or email offsite… nothing collapsed.

The fine print:  when it comes to recharging, everyone is different.  For example, I need 8 hours of sleep whereas some can get away with 6.  I cannot skip any meal, especially not breakfast and I don’t understand how people can eat cereal and feel full (e.g. this morning I had 2 eggs and 2 pieces of toast for breakfast with salsa and coffee).  I must exercise to sleep at night and ultimately re-energize.  I devour chick lit and reality TV to escape.  I spend more time with my extended family than most people.  To get these things done I require time away from work.  I’m not a clock-watcher but there is only so much one person can get done in a day before they start being unproductive.  Taking time away from work does not make you a bad employee or mean you hate your job.

Let’s just not be haters of anyone whose working style is different from our own.  We all make our choices, we all have our own biology and we all have our own obligations.   We’re extraordinarily lucky to live in a free world, so to each his own.  Just get the job done.

Helen Luketic is the manager of HR metrics & research at BC Human Resources Management Association.  Besides editing this blog, researching and running the HR Metrics Service, she is busy working on a policy which would allow her to wear her Mini-Mouse ears to work.