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Time For Time Off

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Back in 2008 Stefan Sagmeister – co-founder and graphic designer at New York creative agency Sagmeister & Walsh – sparked up an interesting debate during his TED talk. Every seven years Stefan and the rest of his team take a full year off from work, and the studio shuts completely. During this time employees are free to pursue hobbies, travel or just do things that are difficult to accomplish during the working year. Stefan explains that we spend the first 25 years of our lives learning, the next 40 working, and tacked on to the end is around 15 years of retirement. So he proposed they cut off five of those retirement years and disperse them through the working years.

At the most basic level a job is done simply for money, a career is driven by career advancement and promotion, but at it’s most a job becomes a calling and it is intrinsically fulfilling. Research has shown that working too much begins to affect quality of employees work, their ability to solve problems and it impacts their love for the job. Sagmeister argues that by taking time out and a step back from your organisation your job can once again become your calling and your passion. What’s more over the long term it can actually be financially rewarding because of the ideas perceived during the sabbatical will be everything that is done over the next 7 years.

Netflix, Hubspot and Evernote are a few of the Silicon Valley companies to an introduce and interpretation of this trend with unlimited paid holidays for employees. Employees are treated like responsible adults and as long as they are on top of their workload, and they get holidays signed off by management they can take as many or as little as they like.

However this perk has been heavily criticised as in the US there is a culture of not taking holidays at all. As much as 40% of Americans choose not to take all of the days to which they are entitled, and having no minimum or maximum might discourage employees from requesting holidays for the fear they look lazy or not motivated. Furthermore, last year US companies carried forward $65.6 billion in accrued paid time off costs last year so it could just as much be a cost cutting strategy rather than for employee wellbeing.

Regardless of how it is done, having time away from work is essential. Whether that might be every one year in seven, two months out of a year, or simply three hours in a week employees need time to pursue whatever is important to them. When you are constantly draining your resources you are not being as productive as you can be and you certainly aren’t coming up with any fresh ideas. Organisations need to embrace a culture where employees are encouraged and supported to take time off. Creativity, inspiration and innovation will follow suit.


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