Every summer, French cities are deserted as their residents take part in a time-honored European tradition: les vacances. Every year, French workers are legally granted seven weeks of vacation, and many of them are taken in July and August.
To North Americans, the notion of taking more than 5 days off at a time may seem not only foreign, but impossible to fathom. Moreover, for many, trying to do business with French during July and August when telephone calls go unanswered and emails remain unread can be frustrating and anxiety-producing. Yet, vacations, much like long, slow meals with fine wine and cheese, are a revered way of life for the French. Nowhere in France would any person be considered a non-team player, uncommitted or cheeky for taking their full time off. This is just what you do. In fact, in the recent past, the French government put up posters in major cities advocating not only time away from work, but the advantages of actually getting away from it all. These benefits include quality time as a family, more present parents, and healthier, happier children who then do better at school.
So what does that mean for those of us with much less time off than the French and yet needing to do business with these vacationers? Well, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Why not take a break yourself? OK: maybe you can’t take the whole month off, but you can make some time to do one of your favorite things: a nap, a walk in the park or a picnic with your family. And, oh yeah, turn off your Blackberry while you’re enjoying yourself. In fact, turn it off for the whole weekend. You’ll see just how much more refreshed and focused you will approach your work. Maybe those French are on to something.
Colleen Slaughter specializes in leadership development and executive coaching for women. She has spent over 20 years – 13 of them in Europe – working with and consulting individuals and organizations from over 35 countries. In 2009, Colleen founded Authentic Leadership International where she lives out her passion for helping people in international leadership roles achieve lasting, satisfying change