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Before Cheryl Hyatt was her own boss, before she co-founded the Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search agency in this Pittsburgh-area town and had employees of her own, she took working vacations. She didn’t want to, but her bosses at the time thought vacations were a great opportunity to catch up on piled up work.

Some put off the tasks until very end of their time off, then stay up the night before and return to the office flustered, frustrated and fatigued. Whatever rejuvenation was to be gained from such time off is effectively erased in that 11th-hour sprint of productivity.

“I was one of those employees who thought when I got back from vacation, I need a vacation,” Hyatt said. “I vowed that if I ever/when I owned a company, I would never do that to my employees.”

Upholding that vow means counseling, even ordering, employees to take time off and disconnect from work while on vacation.

“I insist that they unplug,” she said. For those who absolutely refuse — there are people whose disconnection anxiety could actually ruin a vacation — Hyatt insists they pick a time of day to check their email then step away from the computer for the rest of the day.

The guilt of disconnecting is baked into how employees notify co-workers and clients of their absence.

Here’s a sampling of automatic reply messages from my inbox:

“I am currently on vacation, but will be monitoring email and voicemail.”

“I will have very limited access to email during this time. Please expect a response when I return.”

“I will have limited access to email but will check as often as I can. Please excuse the delay. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

In survey after survey, Americans say they’re taking less time off because they feel the mountain of work that would pile up in their absence would make their return unbearable.

Here, again, the boss can help, Hyatt said. Easing vacationing employees back into work’s rhythm deserves some thought. Instead of bombarding their in-boxes with “when you return” tasks, she keeps a running tab that she’ll titrate into the employees’ calendar when they return.

It’s part of communicating to employees that it’s OK — no, necessary! — that they spend time outside of the work environment and recharge.

Project: Time Off is a website managed by the U.S. Travel Association, which has seized on the gradual decline in employee’s time off to sound the alarm about the health and business case for vacation.

It sponsored a survey of 500 managers to convince employees their bosses want them to disconnect and recharge.

But employees aren’t getting the message, the organization concluded.

So it issued a tip sheet for managers — it’s called Overworked America — that advises talking to employees about taking time off and offering to pick up the slack in their absence.

About 70 percent of employees surveyed by the organization said they would be more likely to take time off if their bosses helped out during their vacation.

Hyatt-Fennell holds “mini-retreats” before an employee takes off to take stock of ongoing work, and informs clients when their contacts will be unavailable.

When employees return, Hyatt makes it a point to ask about their adventures, once again underscoring her support for their other life.

“I always tell them I want to see a picture,” she said. “I want to be jealous. I want to envy you in the beautiful blue sky.”

Chipotle to hire up to 4,000 people

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Monday pledged to fill up to 4,000 entry-level jobs nationwide on its first-ever National Career Day, to be held next month.

The restaurant chain, which employs more than 60,000 people, said managers at each location will interview up to 60 applicants from 8 to 11 a.m. Sept. 9. Find a list of Chipotle locations at nationalcareerday.com.

Chipotle is also part of the Starbucks-led 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a coalition of corporations seeking to make a dent in the dismal unemployment rate among U.S. youths.

Earlier this month, some 600 young adults were offered jobs at a career fair in Chicago. More than 30 companies, from Domino’s to Uniqlo to Hyatt, participated.

Chicago Tribune

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