The prospect of having unlimited vacation time was a huge perk for me when I signed on with Actionable. At my last job, I was not allowed to take vacation time for my first year of employment (which was a difficult pill to swallow), and then just two weeks off per year after that. At Actionable, the focus is on what we get done, not how many hours or days we work, so in theory, we can take as much vacation as we want.
We live in a fast-paced and stressful world. Work and home life demands are always increasing, and we are so used to it that we rarely even register that we’re stressed or need a break. Vacations are so important to unplug, decompress, and recharge our batteries.
Working in a results only work environment (ROWE), I have the autonomy to determine my own schedule, which makes me feel empowered, trusted and respected. While I certainly don’t want to abuse this trust, I also want to take advantage of it.
I just returned to work after a week long vacation, and I can say firsthand that when I came back to work, I was refreshed and ready to jump back in and get things done. My productivity levels increased, my stress levels were down, and I had a better sense of clarity and vision.
As with many great company policies, unlimited vacation in a ROWE does have its downsides. Now seven months into my position, I am coming to understand the limits of “unlimited” vacation. It’s not as simple as just booking a trip and hitting the road.
I have time-sensitive work that I am responsible for on a daily basis, and as much as I try to get my work done in advance, some of it is dependent on my other team members. Having them scramble to get things done ahead time—so I can get my part done ahead of time—is a lot to ask. In addition, whatever I am not able to get done before leaving has to fall on someone else’s shoulders (who is working full-time on their own deliverables). I feel guilty asking them to do extra work so that I can take a vacation. It’s not something I want to do often.
I think one of the best ways to overcome this is to give as much advance notice as you realistically can, communicate what you will need ahead of time from your team members, and make sure they have any other information they will need in order to operate without you.
It’s also important to pay it forward: volunteering to pick up some work for colleagues when they go on vacation is a great way to ensure that you’ll have the coverage you need when it’s your turn.
There is also the issue of perception—how can I maximize this great policy without giving my teammates the impression I am abusing it? What is a reasonable amount of vacation to take? Having access to some company norms and averages of how many days or weeks other employees typically take off might help to clear that up. Your company may provide this information, or it may be as simple as asking your boss or colleagues.
Lastly, there is the importance of actually “unplugging” on vacation. I am the first one to admit that I wasn’t great at this. Ideally, vacation is a time to check out and unwind, but it can be difficult. During my vacation, I found myself checking Slack and emails daily for two reasons: we are a very fast moving company and I did not want to miss something important; and, I felt a looming anxiety about the flood of messages and emails I would have to weed through upon my return, in addition to the other work that I would have to do. It was hard to resist checking in, especially with notifications piling up on my phone.
In this case, you have to take it upon yourself to seriously unplug! Know that your work is in good hands, and that your colleagues can handle anything that comes up. Lock your phone in the hotel safe, use airplane mode, or will yourself to ignore work related notifications if you have to.
Spending a day reading through messages and emails upon your return is worth it to fully decompress on vacation.
Overcoming these few downfalls, as well as having great colleagues to support you will allow you to fully take advantage of your unlimited vacation. I am so grateful for everyone who pulled together to help me out during my week off. Although the weeks surrounding my vacation were very busy (and the week during was busy for my colleagues picking up my slack), it was worth it! I am recharged, refocused, and ready to get some great work done.