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Employees are burning out. Concerned leaders are encouraging time off but folks aren’t taking it. Here’s my take on what’s going on (beyond typical flexibility stigma) and what empathetic managers can do about it./1
Some of the privileged workers I’ve talked to are so grateful to be employed in fair jobs with fair benefits & pay that they want to give their all to their employers. Of course, there’s an undercurrent of economic uncertainty to this gratitude./2
This sentiment is nice but its extreme version is the prevalent feeling of guilt I’ve heard from workers across the country. The thinking goes: "Essential workers are literally fighting for their lives and millions are unemployed.../3
...Sure, I’m anxious and exhausted but I’m so lucky so I shouldn’t ask for more." But here’s the thing: taking paid time off isn’t asking for more. It’s utilizing benefits employees have already been afforded./4
People-first managers: if you are encouraging folks to take a day or two off with no luck, here are a few strategies to give your people explicit permission to disengage./5
#1 - Role model PTO. Proactively communicate that you’re taking a day or two off yourself, actually do it (respond minimally or not at all to email/pings) & share about it with your people when you return. Taking your own time off makes it safer for others to do the same./6
#2 - Give employees a *specific* day off. On March 27, @Upwork took a Recharge Day even though FTEs have unlimited PTO. In April, @AwakenCo's core team took a self-care week./7
Knowing that their organization is offline together can relieve individuals' concerns about abandoning their coworkers or taking off at the “right” time./8
If it’s not feasible to have the whole team/org off at once, stagger days off by last name or give employees choice within a bound span of time (i.e., a week)./9
#3 - Up your empathy game while folks are working. Plenty of tips here: . Integrating wellbeing into your team interactions creates an opening for more grounded, objective & mutual understanding of what employees need and deserve to be their best./10
I hope this helps. PS - I’m taking PTO on Tuesday & Wednesday. I plan to lie in bed, drink Diet Coke for the first time in a decade (I know it's terrible for you; hence the decade. Don't @ me.) & maybe clean my kitchen floor./end
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