A break with tradition - Monocolumn | Monocle


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18 July 2013

As we begin to turn our attention to the October issue of Monocle, we’re presented with a perennial problem: July and August in Europe means lights out for much of the continent. From government offices to restaurants, as temperatures rise it’s time to close up shop, get out of the city and unwind – sometimes for an entire month.

It makes planning a magazine more difficult, of course: chasing a foreign minister for an interview isn’t really possible when he and his entire staff are at the seaside.

From the perspective of a North American, it’s nearly absurd. Used to a stingy two-week holiday allowance, four in a row seems utterly decadent. We react with bewilderment or condescension. “Lazy”, we’d say. How is this even possible? Don’t their governments crumble? Don’t their businesses lose out? They don’t. Sure, economies may still be suffering and political wheels are slow to turn, but no worse than we have been, at times, across the Atlantic. Instead, I plead – if ever I am to return to my homeland – that we first import the tradition of the grandes vacances.

What greater glory than knowing it’s not just you on the beach, where you can enjoy sun and sand without a nagging worry about what fires may need extinguishing back at HQ. Everyone else is on some other beach. There’s no more satisfying experience than just turning off your BlackBerry, not needing to check in, so that you can completely check out.

Holidays should be a time for you to get not only a dose of Vitamin D and sip back a midweek, mid-afternoon cocktail or three but also a moment to refresh. We should return back to our desks well rested, well read and ready to get back to business.

The short, staggered style of holiday – standard in North America – means you re-enter the office and slot right back into routine. No collective sense of a fresh start that is perfected in the summer-break-then-back-to-school schedule so familiar in the first decades of our lives. September used to come and you’d almost missed the structure. You’d relish in the scent of a fresh notebook. All seemed possible. And isn’t it better if everyone is in the same boat?

It’s not just “nice” to unwind over four weeks without the suspicion that you’re missing big decisions by the big boss. A post-holiday pow-wow is its most effective when the entire team is back with fresh eyes: a perfect time to float new ideas or rework old ones. Far from derailing productivity, it can spur innovation.

So, when the mercury rises – kick everyone out of the office and off on holiday. And when you get them back, they’ll not only be sun-kissed, they’ll have a few bright ideas up their sleeves too.

David Michon is managing editor for Monocle.


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