Let’s talk about vacation and time-off from your day to day job. I’m not a perfect example myself but in the last seven years working as a freelancer I’ve gotten some ideas about what my body expects from me, what my brain expects and how I need to force myself to take vacation. Some things I learned the harder way.
It’s Geek Mental Health Week again but this post is not limited to “Geeks” or any other group of people — it’s for everyone.
I recently read a comment by a reader of my weekly summary of web development resources. The comment targets my four week vacation that I took in September to clear my mind a bit and recover my motivation for work, and that it’s not my first time this year. As negative as this sounds, there’s a more important, hidden message in there: Taking more than two weeks of vacation per year is not a choice everyone has. And that makes me sad. I didn’t realize how privileged I am (among others in Germany and other countries) where by law an employer needs to offer employees at least 20 days of vacation per year, and most companies extending this to even 30+ days.
It makes me realize how crazily futuristic and careful some startups treat their employees by giving them the opportunity to choose as many days off as they want and even enforce them to take off at least 30 days a year.
But then you read such a comment where the author gets two weeks of vacation and even has a hard time to actually take those few days off. Then I also know how many startups and agencies encourage people to stay longer in the office, to not take days off, to not stop working when people are tired but only when the work is finished.
But while it’s a privilege to take five weeks off this year in summary (makes 25 vacation days), it’s important to take care of yourself. Who profits from an person that is mentally or physically not healthy anymore (burn-out, exhaustion)? No one, not even your employer. It’s them how then needs to find other people to get the work done, it’s them who need to pay for the people who can’t do their work anymore because of health problems. It’s just short-sighted to use people for quick work until they’re burnt-out.
I suffered from lack of motivation and exhaustion before I took my four week vacation. I now know that taking one four-week vacation in one year is not the best option, and I now also know that taking one or two days off to do sports is not relaxing for the body or the mind — it’s simply distraction from your main work but involves a lot of thinking and physical fitness as well.
As employers, we need to make sure that employees, contractors, anyone who works for the company takes appropriate care of themselves, takes vacation, gets relaxation. Encourage people to regularly take vacation, to make sports regularly, to enjoy a massage from time to time or something like that to stay healthy.
As employee or freelancers, we need to make sure to care about all this on our own. If the employer wants to force you to work more, have a talk, show them this article, let them know about more sustainable work concepts that don’t let people burn out.
If you have experience with these kind of issues or want to share your opinion, please do so and write me an email, or add a comment on Medium.