Monday, January 13, 2014

Don't check your email

Erika Andersen at Forbes writes about a company that has taken an unusual approach to work-life separation: they enforce it. Bandwidth, a 15-year-old company that focuses on IP-based communication technology, enforces a total embargo on email to and from the company while you are on vacation.

When you plan a vacation, Bandwidth wants to make sure that you get to enjoy your vacation. They recognize that workers who are able to completely "unplug" from the office during vacation return refreshed and better able to tackle their work. Often, when we are able to do this, we discover a new energy and enthusiasm, and bring a fresh perspective to challenges. Andersen writes:
That is, when you’re on vacation, you may not communicate with the company and they may not communicate with you.  And to make sure the policy is followed to the T: when someone goes on vacation, all the folks he or she would ordinarily communicate with (employees, partners, boss, etc.) get an email, saying “so-and-so is on vacation.  If he or she contacts you for any reason, please let us know.”
It's not a single-person effort; at Bandwidth, co-workers are expected to take on the slack when one of the team is on vacation. This unusual policy also has the extra benefit of testing "transition plans," so members on a team may exercise procedures and instructions, and managers have an extra incentive to make sure everything is documented properly.

On top of that, Bandwidth requires that you take all your vacation days in the year that you earn them. No "banking" your vacation days to another year.

It sounds weird for a company to require time off from work, but there you are. Bandwidth recognizes that it's better for employees to take their vacation and enjoy it, and the company benefits by re-invigorating employees with restful vacation. In other words, vacation benefits Bandwidth's bottom line, as Andersen reports in her article:
These unusual policies seem to be paying off in terms of business results: Bandwidth is set to make $150M this year – up about 20% from last year –  and they anticipate $200M in profitable revenues next year.
So when you plan your next vacation, discuss with those around you the need to stay unplugged. Do what you can to remove yourself from the day-to-day of what's happening in the office. Find an opportunity to "unplug" so you can return refreshed to your work upon your return.

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