do as I do

This article popped up on my twitter feed this morning. I’ve heard of companies offering unlimited vacation (but never worked for one – libraries are generally not the places where this type of innovation happens*) but this is the first time I’ve read something that spoke to how such policies actually function.

It’s not surprising to me, though, that in an undefined system, people would end up competing to see who could take the least vacation time – who could be the most hardcore. Having been an exempt employee in administration/management for most of my career, this type of competition has been the norm. In most of my workplaces, people have felt compelled to prove how tough/committed they can be by taking as little time off as possible, coming in early and staying late as often as possible, and making themselves available 24/7 regardless of vacation or non-work life. Non-exempt employees have some constraints on this type of behavior (at least according to the letter of the law) but exempt employees do not – and they end up pushing themselves to burnout and, along the way, taking their colleagues with them. The supposed leaders in the organization end up setting the worst example possible of what it looks like to live a balanced, healthy life as a professional.

I daydream a lot about what the world could be like if we were kinder to each other and to ourselves (complete universal healthcare into which we all pay according to our income, complete universal healthcare that includes mental health as well as nutritional health and everything else that goes into making a person well, complete human rights for all members of every community without regard to race, background, sexuality, etc.). Minimum vacation days seems like a good addition to my wishlist.

What would you wish for in an ideal workplace?

*Working in governmental/public sector administration has taught me that those who govern our institutions generally believe that those who work for the institutions deserve the very minimum of benefits such as vacation time. These workers should feel lucky to have a job at all, according to most of those who make/approve the policies (very few if any of whom, tellingly, have ever worked in public sector positions). This sense becomes ingrained in administrators, who also come to believe that even they themselves are not deserving of free time, let alone those they manage, so there seems little hope of any eventual change.