Balance. Respect.

The Silicon Valley tech sphere drives me nuts--and is driving me away. People work insane hours to beat the next launch date, putting the rest of their life on hold, thinking others should make the same sacrifices, getting frustrated when others don't, and ultimately creating a terrible work atmosphere.  Coworkers with balance and respect are getting fewer and farther between.

My job as a Program Manager has become navigating people's emotions. When teams are pressured and individuals are stressed, they lose balance and respect, and it's a downward spiral of productivity loss from there. Teams and managers who take vacation and show interest in others' lives are so much more productive. It's what builds sustainable companies, sustainable work-life balance, sustainable cortisol levels.

Get out and get balanced

Despite multitudes of  articles claiming vacation improves productivity, there's so few people who actually max out vacation time from their company:

vacation breakdown stats
Only 25% of employees take all the vacation they get; 15% don't take any vacation at all! Source: Glassdoor

When you're balanced, you're able to make quicker, better decisions and put issues into perspective. From a Program Manager whose life it is to keep a project on schedule:

  • Max out your vacation every year; never hit your accrual limit.
  • When on vacation, completely sign off. Cold turkey. Turn off email sync.
  • Don't respond to email when on vacation.  When you're half-in and half-out, you make it less productive for people still in the office.  They don't know whether to really wait for your response or to make decisions and forge ahead.
  • Don't answer emails on nights and weekends.  There's always emergencies for deadlines, but routinely doing this creates sub-threads with a few people who are online.  You think decisions are made until others come back to work and question a decision made 30 responses ago.
  • Take at least one 2+ week vacation a year if you can.  It takes a few days to wind down, and a couple days to dread going back; if you only take 1 week off, it's not enough.
  • Don't feel guilty. There's never a "good" time to take vacation.

Challenge question: what would you do if you had 3 months off of work?  

If you're pondering and thinking too hard to come up with a list, you need a break.  I don't care if the answer is that you'd stay home and play video games for 3 months. The point is you need hobbies, passions, anything that engages you. If you put so much time and energy into work that you've been zapped of anything beyond couch surfing, your life isn't balanced. Take vacation off of work to find new hobbies, and don't put 100% of your energy into work every day; leave some energy for enriching yourself.

recovering after ACL reconstruction surgery
Don't wait for forced vacation. My post-ACL reconstruction surgery forced me to slow down and realize how dangerously stressed I was living before.