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Company-wide leave time - Why every business should do it

As the Great Resignation hit businesses around the world, clever managers addressed their teams’ burnout with a novel solution: company-wide vacations. At the J. Molner Company we are proud of shutting down our offices for two weeks every summer for a well-deserved (and unplugged!) break. New ideas, improved productivity, and higher self-motivation are some of the benefits we notice from this decision, and we are not the only ones.

Why employees need a break

It is not a secret that many workers are exhausted nowadays. The pandemic, rising living costs, remote schooling, and lack of vacation options have eroded the self-motivation of employees everywhere. Lucy McBride, an internist and writer for the Atlantic, pointed out the staggering toll of the last two years:

  • Forty percent of adults have reported symptoms related to anxiety and depression, which shows a 400% growth over the pre-pandemic rate.

  • 1 out of 4 mothers reported that the worldwide crisis had a major impact on their mental health.

  • Twenty-four percent of parents have been diagnosed with a mental-health ailment since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Pediatrician visits due to anxiety or depression have increased by thirteen percent.

“As a primary-care doctor, I’m witnessing the physical-health toll of collective trauma—high blood pressure, headaches, herniated discs. And this has been before many people have returned to the office or resumed their pre-pandemic schedules,” writes McBride.

One of the reasons behind this stress crisis lies in the inability to fully disconnect from the office. With more companies adopting hybrid and work-from-home models, the divide between work hours and rest time has become blurred. In a world full of smart devices, it is extremely hard for workers to let go and not check how things are going in the office while they are on leave. According to a recent indeed survey, 27% of respondents are unable to unplug from work and relax:

“Nearly 40% (39%) of all workers say they check emails outside of regular work hours every day. Troublingly, only 6% of virtual workers say they “never” check emails after hours,” states the report.

Creating businesses fit for collective holidays

To combat excessive burnout, startups like Hootsuite, Mozilla, Bumble, and Linkedin started offering company-wide leave time. This allows every employee to completely focus on themselves and be 100% office-free. This means there are no meetings (not even Zoom ones!), office emails, mobile notifications, or calls!

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the way we work and need to work, has changed. Our new policies are a reflection of what really matters and how we can best support our teams in both their work and life,” explains Tariq Shaukat, president of Bumble.

It is critical then to create organizational culture in the same way as services are built: with a human-centered perspective. This goes beyond mining data from employee satisfaction surveys, by delving into what is currently pressuring each team member, designing company-wide leave solutions that are affordable and scalable, and being willing do tests and improve by using what has been learned.

Why company-wide vacations work

People employed at businesses with company-wide vacations can fully enjoy their leave by knowing that nothing can come up. There is also less sense of guilt, since sometimes requesting PTO means that another team-member will have to work overtime. It also creates a way to thank employees for their hard work as Teuila Hanson, LinkedIn's chief people officer told CNN Business:

"We wanted to make sure we could give them something really valuable, and what we think is most valuable right now is time for all of us to collectively walk away,"

Establishing a company-wide leave provides workers with a chance to fully disconnect from their job tasks, think less (or not at all!) about work, enjoy their vacation better, and feel more replenished afterwards. In other words, a well-rested team is an improved team!

By closing our HQ for two weeks every summer, The J. Molner Company has created a clear boundary between working and not-working periods. Our time-off has also created a deeper sense of community, since it has become an annual tradition that every team member looks forward to. Our team knows they can plan vacations while their children are also on break, do more outdoor activities without needing to check any screen, and enjoy the best Estonian weather of the year (with up to almost 19 hours of sunlight!).

While it is true that scheduling a company-wide leave time is hard, the benefits it brings to the mental and physical wellbeing of employees are worth it. And by doing so, businesses take a step in the right direction to promote a better balance between work and life.

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