Out of Office
This post is very timely for me as I'm about to embark on an exciting vacation to St. John's Newfoundland! As I gear up for my holiday, I have a buzz of excitement about me, planning places I want to visit, the lovely downtime I will have and trying to connect with folks out that way which I've worked with in the past (surprisingly, St. John's has a growing tech scene!) This however wasn't always the case for me. Previously, being out of office filled me with anxiety, dread and fear of the unknown. What if they discover I'm a fraud while I'm away (oh hi Imposter Syndrome), what if everything falls apart (note to self: you are not Super Woman) or even what if they realize they no longer want or need me. In short, I frequently experienced a bad case of the 'what if's.'
After talking to some friends about this, I realized I was not alone. Many people go through this when they are about to be out of office for more than a few days. Being away from the office was meant to be a time to relax, and recharge your batteries, for many of us though, it was even more stressful than if we'd been there in the first place.
I often think back to a company I worked with in the early days of my career. I had been working there for two years straight and had never taken more than a handful of days off. Partially because the culture of the company frowned upon it and partly because of my own doing, I was terrified they couldn't survive without me. This turned out to be partially right. I took my weeks vacation, and on the second day, my boss called me and asked me to come into the office. He couldn't figure out a spreadsheet, and only I could help. I was on my way to cottage country already, and he demanded I drive back into the city. It was the last vacation I ever took from that specific company.
This experience, however, led me to think that I didn't need a break, they couldn't function without me and that all hell would break loose if I even thought about taking time away, especially if I were to leave the country. I love to travel. One of my passions is seeing different cultures and travelling the world. So, I put that part of my life on hold for a few years. Finally, I entered a healthy company that encouraged me to travel, and I got back to my globetrotting.
I've witnessed this issue with founders and well as employees in companies. Founders never want to leave; they work until they burn themselves out and then work some more. Taking a break is essential, not just for your mental health but for that of your employees. Let me explain. The founder and CEO of a company, especially a small startup, set the tone for the rest of the company. So, if as a founder, you never take a week off or never leave the office before 8 pm, then your employees will follow suit. The good people you have hired will depart, and you will be left scrambling. Even if you don't travel somewhere for your vacation, it is essential to take at least a week downtime a few times a year to recharge. The house will not fall just because you are away, and if it is life altering important, someone is going to call you.
With all this in mind, I encourage you all to book a vacation right now. It could just be a few days away in Prince Edward County, or it could be ten days in Ireland. Your mental health will thank you. Your colleagues will thank you (I get grumpy if I don't have enough downtime) and you will be better in most aspects of your life by doing so. So go on, take that vacation, you earned it.