time off


Most companies have vacation policies that grant employees a defined number of paid vacation days per year, which everyone can take as they want. It’s great, except that we have to make it work for everybody...

Have there been times when you freaked out when your teammates contemplated their next vacation? You’re already overworked and you know that when they go on vacation, this means that you will get to do their job in addition to yours. Similarly, have you thought about the impact of your last vacation on them?

The best teams work collaboratively. Team members trust each other and are interdependent. If one person takes a vacation, the entire team needs to make adjustments; sometimes these adjustments are difficult if they are not carefully planned — because we know that the team is already stretched thin and that something important must be delivered on schedule. 

We know that nobody can work indefinitely without taking time off to recharge. So who can say if and when is best for someone to take time off? My response is that like teamwork, vacation is a team effort that should be designed and potentially scheduled with the manager and all the team members. Your going away for days or weeks affects your team; therefore checking with your teammates and giving them a time to think about it and prepare for it, is teamwork. Your teammates, like your manager, will certainly respect your need for rest and time-off as they too will need rest and time-off.

As managers design jobs and teams, it’s key to embed breaks and out of office time within the work design. These decisions are best left to the teams. Managers should focus on observing, listening and adapting this design in order to optimize support for their team when one member goes on vacation or another one longs for one.


Yes, extended periods of time off can impact performance and motivation - BY ANNE HARDY


The benefits of time-off are clear to everyone. Unsurprisingly, we need time-off and research confirm common sense.

We need time off to recharge physically and mentally. But can too much time off also affect us negatively? I am not trying to be contrarian — but I believe that the question is worth asking. Well, the answer is not simple; it depends on the job and more specifically what the job demands.    

For physically demanding jobs, the body needs regular periods of rest to protect from accident or injury caused by fatigue. Like athletes, bodies need regular rest and recovery periods. So, shouldn’t you treat your body as an athlete would? Athletes are consistent in their physical activity during any given week to ensure muscles stay strong. They also incorporate regular periods of rest to allow muscles to rebuild after strenuous activity.

For jobs that are mentally demanding but perhaps less physically demanding, you still need regular periods of rest. While you may not need to rest your physical muscles, you will most certainly need to re-energize your mind and heart, almost like if they were muscles.   

Throughout my career in software engineering,  I have spent many hour/day sitting at my desk in front of a computer. For a few years, I worked in France for a company that granted its employees almost eight weeks of vacation time per year. Although I could never take all of it in a year, I tried to take advantage of this benefit when possible, by taking three or four weeks at a time. Every time, returning to work after the long break was excruciating for me. It felt like my brain had been atrophied and needed to relearn to get back in the thick of things and be effective again. My brain almost felt like a muscle that I had not used for too long…

In short, we rarely treat our mental muscles the same way as athletes treat their physical muscles. But shouldn’t we?