I know, I know. I’m probably being hyper-negative about something that is, in fact, a positive thing for companies to do. I should be glad that they are trying to do something about burnout and employee mental health, and as an advocate for that, I should be glad that this has been happening.
But, like most things, it’s not really that simple, as pointed out in this article:
However there are caveats to some of the so-called collective vacation policies. Hootsuite and LinkedIn both said they left behind core teams of workers to keep things running when the rest of the company was out office. Those employees then got a week off after everyone else. And experts say that although synchronous vacation time is a good idea, there is more that employers can do to establish better practices around paid time off.
So wait, it wasn’t actually everyone off work at the same time, there were some folks left out of this equation. Those folks got time off, just not at the same time as the rest of the company, which means that, as we will discuss further, they missed out on the whole concept of taking the time together so that people didn’t bother you, or pile up emails and work while you were out. They might very well have had to deal with a week’s worth of work that occurred while they were out, which was the problem this policy was developed for in the first place.
If you’re one of those folks, I guess sorry about your luck?
But really, whether someone got left behind or not, isn’t this sort of a massive overreaction? If the issue is that people are getting burned out because they are either not taking time off, are continuing to work during their time off to avoid being overwhelmed with work that piled up, or are actually being contacted by their team members during their time off, how about we figure out how to create a culture that allows people to disconnect during their time off, instead of literally just closing up shop for a week?
Is your management team unable to figure out how to do that? Are those managers unable to give people the space to actually be disconnected from work? Do your job duties require you to put in 80 hour weeks the week before, and the week after, to make up for the 40 hours you disconnected during your vacation?
Instead of closing shop for a week, for some employees, maybe figure out how to fix that culture? Create an environment where taking some time off doesn’t come with a price to pay for it. Where employees can truly disconnect, take care of their own needs without any work disruptions, can then come back to work refreshed and ready to go, instead of being filled with dread at how much they “missed” getting done.
I know, it’s actually easier to shut down for a week than do this hard work, but doing this hard work helps employees a whole lot more. Because sometimes, we need time off that doesn’t coincide with the closed-office week, and instead of truly getting it, this becomes even more stressful.
For example, when a major hurricane rolls through town, and you have no power, internet, and cell service. I spent multiple days really unable to work, unable to just up and leave to get somewhere I could work, and pretty unreachable. Meetings had to be rescheduled, some work had to be picked up by others, and it was fairly difficult for anyone to reach out to me. (Truthfully, outside of checking on me, no one really did either.)
Because the culture doesn’t say “we’ll all take this one week off to disconnect at the same time”, it says “you have more important things to worry about than work this week, we’ll take care of it until you’re back”. I will, of course, return the favor when it’s other folks’ time to be away from work.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some catching up to do and a few extra meetings to get scheduled during the next week, but it wasn’t overwhelming, and I wasn’t answering emails in the midst of everything else. I was focusing on taking care of the things we needed to take care of at home right now.
That’s what your employees need, not the promise of a future week where you shutdown, the ability to take care of what they need to take care of, which is more important than work.
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