Thursday, July 5, 2018

"In 2018, spend more time in the present"/ Use paid vacation time

Jan. 8, 2018 "In 2018, spend more time in the present": Today I found this article by Naomi Titleman Colla in the Globe and Mail

Naomi Titleman Colla is the founder of Collaborativity Leadership Advisory and the former chief human resources officer of American Express Canada.

January is a typical time for reflecting on the past year and setting goals while planning for the next one. For 2018, how about committing to spending more time in the present?

The practice of focusing on the present, or "mindfulness," has been around since the dawn of time. However, it has recently become popular not just with yogis but also within corporations. 

Many successful leaders (including Rupert Murdoch and Oprah Winfrey) swear by their transcendental meditation practice in which one focuses on a mantra for 15-20 minutes a day. It is said to help with stress management and better and quicker decision-making. 

By focusing on the present, we eliminate noise or "busy brain," which causes unproductive and often irrational and negative thoughts about what we "should have done" or things that "may happen."

That's not to say that we shouldn't learn from the past and plan for the future. However, by taking time to focus on the present, we prepare our brains as a clean slate to better process past learnings and handle future events.

Here are some additional benefits for leaders, workers and organizations:

  • Mindful leaders are able to listen to their inner voice to find their unique strengths and purpose: contributing to increased confidence and engagement, more deliberate communication and overall better leadership.
  • Mindful workers are able to work smarter instead of harder: They are self-aware about when they are most productive and prioritize accordingly.
  • Mindful organizations create an environment in which workers at all levels can create and innovate: Instilling growth mindset as a cultural attribute and mindfulness as an organizational practice leads to better collaboration and directly affects business results.

The irony is that I hear all too often from people, "I don't have time for meditation, yoga, [insert other mindfulness practices]" but taking time out to reset and recharge our brains actually gives us more productive time in our day.

Don't know where to start? There's an app for that

Never considered integrating mindfulness into your routine? Don't be intimidated. Start small with a meditation app (such as Headspace or Calm) that guides you through mindful exercises. Or try a meditation class or a yoga class.

Try a tech detox

Find yourself compulsively refreshing your social media pages and checking e-mail? Commit to some time away from technology with a few simple tactics.

At work:

  • Try setting an “away from my technology” auto response on your e-mail (even just for an hour!).
  • Instill a “no laptop/smartphone” rule in meetings.

In your personal life:

  • Implement a “no smartphones in the bedroom” rule.
  • Take a real camera on your next vacation so you’re not tempted to check your e-mails when you take out your phone to capture that precious memory, or don’t take photos at all and just focus on the present moment.

Schedule the time and share with others

Just like any new habit, when you first start a mindfulness practice, it is easy to push it to the side and make excuses for why you can't do it. Scheduling reminders in your calendar to breathe can be a great way to hold yourself accountable.

Use a journal

Note changes in your productivity – start with listing three things you want to accomplish personally and professionally each quarter/month/week, and eventually each day, and monitor your progress. This will help you adapt and grow your practice to be most effective and empowering.

In this new world of work, where productivity is not keeping up with technology advances, workers are more overburdened and stressed than ever.

Can encouraging mindfulness in our organizations be a catalyst to solving the productivity equation? Imagine if before reacting, we all paused, breathed, took a few moments to plan how we want to react, prioritized our actions and then proceeded. 

The workplace would be a happier and perhaps a more productive place.

Jan. 15, 2018 "Is it legal to force employees to use paid vacation time?": Today I found this job advice column in the Globe and Mail


I am based in Alberta. Having been with the company a long time, I am entitled to five weeks' paid time off (PTO). The company forces us to take all of five weeks in a calendar year otherwise we lose these days off. Is this legal in Alberta as well as other provinces? My company has employees across Canada.

Laurie Robson
Partner, BLG, Calgary office

The short answer is that annual vacation is intended to be used in full each year so that employees can take a paid rest from work.

Special rules may apply to certain jobs or industries.

In some provinces (Alberta is an example) your employer can tell you when you will take your vacation and you must take it then.

Whether it is "legal" to lose your earned vacation time (or vacation pay) is another matter.
Answering this question requires consideration of:
  • Legislation – either provincial employment/labour standards laws. There isn’t a universal vacation law that applies to provincially regulated employees across Canada. For federally regulated employees, the Canada Labour Code applies to all.
  • Your employment contract. This may be a collective agreement for unionized employees; an employment offer letter or contract;
  • The workplace vacation policy.
Whether you must use all your vacation time each year or risk losing it is assessed with all three factors in mind. If your employer insists on you using up your time, do it – that is why you earn vacation pay.

Enjoy the downtime!


Gabrielle Nydam
President, Contiki Canada

It's far too common to hear of employees feeling overwhelmed when the end of the year approaches and they've realized they can't use all their vacation.

Many Canadians forgo time off due to limited time to plan and having too much work to get done.

Having five weeks, for most of us, is a real blessing. Take advantage of the time.
Studies show travelling has major benefits for one's well-being, including making us happier and more productive at work afterwards.

You don't need to take all five weeks in one go. Instead, break them up during the calendar year.

It's also up to employers to create an office culture that encourages breaks and time off, and makes it easier for their employees to unwind – especially their millennial staff.

Many studies show an overwhelming majority of millennials place time off as a priority in their search for work-life balance. Time away from work can help you cope with stress as well as reset the mind.

Easy ways to encourage vacations are to make Thursday the new deadline day and to schedule meetings for mid-week in order to keep Mondays and Fridays guilt-free for getaways.

Another idea is to conduct quarterly vacation check ins. Have your manager incorporate vacation-status in reviews. This is a great way to remind employees to plan vacation in advance instead of scrambling to cram all five weeks into the end of the year.

Being able to step away from work from time to time will ultimately lead to a more engaged work force, and a healthier you.

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