I read a great article the other day and made the recommendation to one of our Directors that we should distribute it to everyone not only here at the Firm, but to everyone we know. In fact, I think every company should post this on their employee bulletin boards.

It was written by Rex Huppke for the Chicago Tribune, and he referenced a survey conducted at the end of last year by Right Management, a workforce consulting firm. About 70 percent of U.S. workers say they didn’t use all of their vacation time in 2011. What?!

Is it the economy? The frail job market? The desire to impress the bosses? The misconstrued notion of self-importance to the very balance and continued success or failure of your employer?

In Rex’s exact words: “Shut up and take some time off!”

Just coming off a wonderful “staycation” myself, the article really hit home in many ways. Here’s a little timeline of my recent experience:

Day One of Vacation – Body clock is still waking me up at 5:45 a.m. Still checking email and voicemail to make sure there isn’t anything pressing that demands full and immediate attention. Making notes of things I must do as soon as I get back to the office. Feeling guilty about taking a chunk of time off. There’s always work to be done! What if something falls through the cracks? What if there’s a question only I can answer and no one can find me? What if I forgot to do some sort of tremendous project and the Firm’s infrastructure crumbles? Try to relax …..

Day Two – Body clock still doesn’t know we’re on vacation. Need to try a mental snooze button. Still trying to unwind. How can it be 11 a.m. already? I’m so not being productive. How lazy am I? If I was at work, I would be doing …..

Day Three – Hmmmmm, body clock has reset. Ooh yeah! I am on PTO (paid time off). Starting to think “Why didn’t I do this sooner? I soooo deserve this time off. Vacation. What a great invention.”

The truth of the matter is, you will be a parent / employee / person if you just take some time off to refresh and re-energize. The world goes on, the sun still rises and sets and let’s face it: you’re important but the company will still function just fine in your absence. You not being there gives other people an opportunity to step up. Also a good thing!

Superior, respectable companies like Freed Maxick encourage employees to take time off. In fact, here you can’t continue to accrue vacation hours until you utilize vacation hours. Kind of a nice system, huh?

So plan that vacation. Talk to your Supervisor(s) about the time you would like to schedule out of the office. Have a plan prepared for anything that comes up while you’re gone. Give yourself some time to prepare and don’t leave anything in disorder. Notify the appropriate parties that you will be gone. Change your outgoing voicemail and email messages so your contacts know when they will be able to reach you and who to communicate with while you’re out.

And don’t forget your mental snooze button.