Sometimes, vacation isn’t all that restful — say, when the emails and Slack messages just keep coming, and you can’t help but look, or feel obligated to.
Now, a few companies are offering a new perk to fight burnout and give employees a real break from their work: company-wide holidays when everyone is off at the same time.
Priti Joshi spent a week-long company-wide break this month with her husband and daughter, but she didn’t completely disconnect from work. She tries to unplug by removing Slack and email pop-up notifications. Still, like many professionals, she checks in occasionally for peace of mind and to make sure everything is okay at work.
“When I’m away, I feel like not only am I … refilling my proverbial glass, I kind of am able to get re-energized and just feel ready,” said Joshi, a vice president for online dating app Bumble. “It also helps me to reprioritize the things that we’re working on.
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“And we really understand with a different perspective.”
Feeling revitalized is what many employees and their employers both want. Starting this year, accounting and consulting firm PwC is giving its 60,000 US employees two annual company-wide, week-long breaks — one in July and one in December — in addition to vacation time. While it is hard to quantify an increase in productivity, the company says it’s a success based on feedback from employees and customers.
“No doubt about it, this works,” said PwC senior partner and US Chair Tim Ryan about shutting the firm down and giving people a break across the board earlier this month.
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“The energy and the enthusiasm is amazing, and that translates to my mind to productivity and happier clients at the end of the day,” he said, while visiting one of PwC’s offices in Des Moines, Iowa.
Yet many employees are not taking as much time off this summer.
A recent Korn Ferry survey found 63% of professionals say they will be taking a shorter vacation this year, and 58% say being away from the office stresses them out more now than in the past. Their top reasons were too much work due to decreases in staff and fear that the work wouldn’t be done well.
5 WAYS TO UNPLUG AND UNWIND
- Disconnect the distractions. Shut off notifications from email, Slack and other apps from your smart device.
- Have a plan. Some things might need attention while you’re away. Have a plan to address them; put someone in charge of things that need coverage.
- Be honest and transparent about what needs to be done. Communicate your plan for emergencies to colleagues and clients.
- Set the tone from above. Managers and leaders should demonstrate through their own behavior what is expected and encouraged.
- Let coworkers lean in. Employees should be comfortable learning on busy colleagues, knowing it will be reciprocated when it’s their turn.
Sometimes employees just don’t want to miss out.
“We have many employees working in new roles following the Great Resignation and Great Migration and that can make longer vacations feel less appropriate for employees newer to their organizations,” said Mark Royal, senior director for Korn Ferry Advisory.
Korn Ferry Senior Director Mark Royal (second from right) took time off for his daughter’s wedding, but still spent some time working.
Royal had his own experience with fear of missing out when he scheduled calls while taking time off for his daughter’s wedding. Yet, it was important for Royal that doing the work was his choice, not something that was mandated.
“I just have an increased comfort level that things are fine in terms of work and I can enjoy my time away,” said Royal about checking in. He also was careful not to let calls interfere with him attending all of the wedding festivities.
“So I would say it was not problematic for me because I had scheduled it carefully and communicated it,” he added. “It did not create problems with family members.”
PWC’s Ali Furman (left) spent most of her time out of the office reading books and spending time with family, pictured.
During PwC’s week-long shutdown, Ali Furman said she was grateful for the time off to spend at the beach with her family, participate in her son’s activities and catch up on her reading. Still, she checked in to handle some work so she could feel organized and prepared for the following week.
“For me, that was the appropriate amount of work in the mix on vacation,” said Furman, a managing partner in the US for PwC. “But more than anything, I got to recharge and disconnect and focus on things outside of work.
“It’s so crucial to be able to clear your mind and come back refreshed,” she added.
While many companies understand the importance of time away, not everyone gets a break. While workers in European Union countries are guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days a year, nearly a quarter (23%) of US workers don’t get any paid vacation time at all, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research.
Workers not only need to have the time off. In many cases, they actually need to be encouraged to use their time. Ryan’s team intentionally set the tone ahead of PWC’s July shutdown week, posting on social media his plans to spend time with family and taking his dog for extra-long walks during his time off.
“It’s a way of saying it’s okay, we’re serious,” he said. “We want you to do this.
“Giving permission in both words and actions is hugely important,” Ryan added. “That’s why we did it.”