When work hands you vacation, use it. Why we must take back work-life balance.
Writing this, I am in a fun professional position. I am self employed, working on a project basis for two companies, and simultaneously chasing my dreams. While this means that I am fortunate enough to make my own schedule, it comes with its struggles like it being hard to appreciate the idea of vacations.
Where this year’s holidays are strange for me in regards to navigating work, I once was a part of the traditional professional environment. I have seen the 9 to 5 job with its allotted vacation days and holidays given in accordance with societal expectations. I get the joy and need for these types of breaks when working in a pattern. And now, having seen the self-employed, create your own schedule versus the structured, regimented work life something is bothering me this winter more than ever before: the unhealthy and unrealistic expectations that exist within work cultures.
Personally, I am doing work over the holidays because I write for myself. I am working on projects not for money but because they are hobbies. While I am still working, it is my choice. If asked, I would have turned down any work that wouldn’t have been in my boundary of celebrating with loved ones. I am working by my desire not because I have to.
I have noticed however that a number of people are working not by their choice. From numerous conversations, I have encountered friends who are provided office holiday days only to be expected to still complete work. They have days off for vacation yet they are spending hours here or there sending emails and working on projects.
It is not just that they are working but what they are saying that bothers me. They claim “It is just a few hours” Or “I have to do some things or else my projects will fall apart.” These statements irk me.
These thoughts are wrapped up in a much greater conversation about the encroaching influence of technology in separating work life balance. This topic aside, what bugs me so much is that when considering vacation time, these expectations should not exist. When working for organizations, people have vacation days. If these days are provided upon employment, they are not earned or rewarded but exist as a part of a contract. Employees are promised these times away from work and bosses shouldn’t expect them to give these days up.
Asking an employee to work on a company provided vacation day, whether explicitly or implicitly, is giving your child a holiday present but telling them they must pay back a part of the toy’s cost or else you will reprimand them. Its illogical and it goes against the very nature of why we have incentives, such as vacations, built into work.
In life, we show our priorities by how we spend our time. Where we value our jobs, especially those we love, we still need to make our personal life a priority. There are benefits that come from taking a step back from work, turning off the email and recharging. If we are unable to do that on work given holidays, then when else are we ever going to be free?
This holiday season, unplug on whatever vacation days you have. Take some time off, love yourself and the people around you. I promise work will be there when you get back. And if it is not, you might be lucky. An employer that does not respect your right to the vacation they provide you, well you’re likely better not working for them in the first place.