I’m writing this while I sit on the beach at a lakeside cottage. The sun is dancing on the water, the sand is warm on my feet, and whenever I feel a little too hot, I take a quick walk through the waves while my dog barks from the paw-deep shoreline. I’m not saying this to make you envious, although it is beautiful here. I’m not saying this because I resent having to work while on vacation.
Here’s why it matters that I’m working on vacation.
In the three days I’ve been away, I’ve been able to design and develop an entire workshop, put together a proposal for a new client, and have several phone meetings with existing clients. I’ve done all of this with spotty wifi, phone service that keeps quitting, and a 3-hour power outage during a rain shower.
I’ve completed this work while taking breaks to colour while sipping a mimosa, to walk on the beach, and to play headbands with family. I feel rested, happy and accomplished. I feel free. I feel no resentment about having to work while on vacation. I chose to work while here.
I remember the rare vacations I took while working corporately… vacations that were ruined because of work. I remember the stress of coming back from vacation to several hundred emails and tighter timelines than before. I remember the dichotomous nature of the feedback I received – some people judging me for dialling into important conference calls while away or for responding to email – “Aren’t you on vacation? You shouldn’t be working.” Others judged me for “being able” to take vacation in the first place. I remember the looks, the behind-my-back whispers and occasional direct remarks to me, “It must be nice to be able to go on vacation. I’m far too busy!” I remember feeling that it wasn’t worth taking vacation because of all of these factors.
The difference today isn’t the amount of work I have to do. In fact, I have more to do now. The difference is that I have decided how to use my time.
When you work in most corporate environments, your time is not your own. You have a set number of weeks of vacation that can often only be taken certain times of the year. When you go on vacation, you turn on an “out of office” reply that states when you will be back to wade through your email and voicemail. When you do come back, you feel more stress and further behind in your work. The kicker is that everyone feels this, no matter your level in an organization – from the senior executives to the front line. And yet everyone continues to pressure everyone else in the same way.
Since I have had my own business, I’ve spent a month in Thailand, 2 weeks in China, 2 weeks in California, and I’ve taken several other shorter vacations. I have managed to see friends, spend more time with family, and to manage my work around my life. I make decisions about how to use my time. I decide whether to work my butt off to finish projects before leaving on vacation or to take work with me. I make decisions about how long to go away for and what it means for my work. My work gets done. My business is growing. My health has improved. My happiness level is almost always on a high.
So why does this matter to you, corporate leader?
It matters because when people have the freedom to decide how and when and where to get their work done, work feels different. People feel more accountable and accomplished. They can achieve greatness in both work and life.
I quit my corporate job because I felt like I was wasting my life behind my desk, in stress and unhappiness. I lost friends, I missed vacations, my relationships suffered. I quit my job because I didn’t feel like my life was my own. I quit my job because if I was going to work my ass off, I wanted it to be on my terms, doing work that I was proud of.
I don’t think people should have to quit their jobs to find happiness.
Work does not have to suck.
Most people crave freedom and purpose in their work, and when your employees feel engaged and committed, your customers begin to feel the same.
I imagine a world where “corporate is not a curse word™”. Where people feel purposeful, autonomous and authentic at work. I believe it is time to Reinvent Work™. This is why I believe so strongly in ways of working like the Results-Only Work Environment™.
One of the 13 guideposts of a ROWE™ is “Every day feels like Saturday™.”
I love this belief. You can do your grocery shopping on a Tuesday, you can go to the gym at 10 am on a Thursday, and you can write proposals and workshops during a vacation – as long as your work gets done!
What do you think? Isn’t it time to let people decide how to spend their time? To decide if they should work on their vacation? Shouldn’t we stop worrying about how people are spending their time and just worry about whether their work gets done?
CultureRx® is the owner of the Results-Only Work Environment™ and ROWE™ trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property which identify the innovative management methodology.
Pam Ross Consulting is the owner of the Reinvent Work Summit™ and Reinvent Work™ trademarks, copyrights and other related intellectual property.