Let’s talk recharge. You all know the value of aquifer recharge. As endless as groundwater can seem, you can’t pump a big well forever without recharge. Without the additional top off seeping down through the earth, eventually the whole system stops working.

Have you and your crews this summer tested just how long you can work without recharge? In large parts of the United States, drilling work has a seasonal ebb and flow. Often, I hear how busy summer gets. Lately, I hear about how this particular summer has kept many companies busier than usual. You can only work so many 60-hour weeks before you need recharge. Otherwise, the system has a way of reminding you to recharge. Wear and tear always catches up with both machines and the people operating them.

I remind myself all the time to take my time — and I feel like my company setup specifically supports it. Yet I type this on “vacation,” in northern Michigan as I try to enjoy the quickly cooling weather. What gives? We can all use the recharge I talk about, so why don’t we take advantage of it? A few reasons:

  • American stubbornness: We love to one up each other and treat busy-ness as a badge of honor. Often, the first response to hearing that someone worked 10 hours in a day sounds like, “Oh yeah, well that’s nothing. Last week I put in four back-to-back 12-hour days.” This sets up a bad incentive structure. No one wants a reputation as the person with the shoddy Protestant work ethic. American workers who get paid time off take, on average, only just over half of that time.
  • Lack of supportive policies: This one runs a close second. Not only do many Americans only grudgingly take time off, many company policies only grudgingly let us take that time – or at least it can feel that way. We have too many projects right now. Can you take that time maybe next month?
  • Company culture: Managers set the tone. Supervisors who themselves work 60 hours a week, whether consciously or unconsciously, telegraph that as the expectation.

I can’t wag my finger as I try to have my work and vacation, too. But before I log off I can remind people of the value of recharge and the reality that many of us don’t get enough.

As a writer, I find I have to recharge regularly. When I overwork I get sloppy. My writing isn’t as precise. I miss things. Running heavy equipment is no different. Overworked crews can make costly mistakes.

Your company probably won’t collapse if a key employee takes vacation at an inconvenient time (plus, you can use it as a training opportunity lower level workers). Employees, don’t fall for peer pressure to overwork. Not all hours are good hours. Productivity — and your sharpness — often diminishes the as hours in a week add up. The recharge is necessary, and worth it.

What do you think? As a company owner, when did you last take a vacation? As an employee, have you felt like you could actually take time off? Send an email to verduscoj@bnpmedia.com.

Stay safe out there, drillers.

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