This past week my wife Kendra departed with her parents for one of our favourite places to relax. the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. I’m not as fortunate as Kendra when it comes to time off so I chose this time to take a tour of our branch offices in the US and connect with customers and our team. I enjoyed my trip through three cities over 4 days and then boarded a flight to Calgary, which is home for us.
A return, but only in name as I promptly boarded a flight to Comox in order to join them and help out on the 15 hour journey home.We’ve done this drive (and ferry) a number of times. And we will be in the midst of returning home when this post is published. We will have driven, and taken a ferry, and overnighted in a beautiful community with a nice dinner out. We will have laughed, conversed, dreamed, listened to music and sat in silence.We will have appreciated the beauty of Canada on the water, in the mountains and finally on the plains for the last hour home.
First off I usually feel that returning is good. In its simplest sense returning is about being back in one’s home. Our nest. Where we are most comfortable. Things are familiar, or more importantly, ours. The place of our clan. There isn’t a lot of asking permission at home. We are comfortable in all aspects of our space.
But usually, returning also means returning to loved ones. Our son, our daughter, our granddaughter, Kendra’s parents. Family grounds us. Friends do too. Even though we were with friends travelling, being in our community is important.
We return to routines. To things that make us whole. Exercise schedules. Clubs. Classes. Our arts. Coffee we love. Our comfortable schedules. We go back to where we were. There is comfort in that, and there is nothing wrong with that. But there is also a returning to our energy before our vacation … something somehow regressive if we let it be.
We return to work. We aren’t on vacation anymore. We might start looking forward to our next time away. And our next opportunity to return. And then do it again. There is a risk of being in a space where we wish we were elsewhere again.
Why can’t we return differently? We often grow on vacation. We learn, discover, express, wonder, experience! What if we returned from vacation with one new thing, with one thought, that was going to alter routines. What if returned with the idea that we would change one thing in our routine that had become stale or limiting? What if we committed to growing in some way … whether small or significant?
A bit of this thread might look towards duality in our lives. When we are away from home and anonymous in some way perhaps we feel more free to be who we really are. That is usually true when we are with our good friends where we are comfortable in our “warts and glory”. But work sometimes seems like it is about security, providing, status, competing, evaluation, etc. so there one might strive to protect (or project) one’s image.
As leaders let’s think about what might happen if we focused on the return of a team member from vacation, or indeed any other significant ” out of office” experience, as a pivotal moment of growth? What if we shifted from the standard protocol of “welcome back … we missed you … did you have a great vacation … we have a lot to catch up on” to “welcome back … I’m excited to hear about your experiences … what will you miss most about your time away … how do we build some of that into your time at work going forward?”
It’s an interesting concept. We know that vacations are about relaxing, rejuvenating, re-energizing. Is it necessary that we let that go when we return? Can we use that as an opportunity to “level up” as we discussed in a previous post?