Time off is important to sustain a healthy work/life balance and is vital to maintaining mental health. Taking time off is not selfish, it is important in order to recharge the batteries and refresh the mind. It is also a core part of the creative process. We encourage managers and leadership to set the example by taking time off when needed and ensuring that the members in their teams do the same.

Vacations and time off does not have to be to travel to some exotic place or for a long duration (even though it of course can be both these things), but it is just as valid to take a day off to for example clean your house, relax with your family or focus on your hobby.

This guide focuses on vacation, if you need time off for parental leave or medical reasons you should follow the appropriate process for your location.

Guide to time off

  1. We have a “no ask, must tell” time off policy. This means that:
  • You do not need to ask permission to take time off unless you want to have more than 25 consecutive calendar days off.
  • If your planned leave exceeds the 25 calendars days (including weekends and holidays), please make sure to reach out to your manager.
  • What we care about are your results, not how long you work. While you don’t need to ask approval for time off, it shouldn’t be at the expense of business getting done. Please coordinate with your team before taking time off, especially during popular or official holidays, so that we can ensure business continuity. We want to ensure we have adequate coverage and avoid situations where all/most of the team is taking time off at the same time.
  • When taking time off make sure your manager is aware of your absence. Informing your manager should be done by using Timezynk. Giving your manager and team members a heads up early helps them prioritize work and meet business goals and deadlines.
  • If you’re gone for 72 hours without notification, this could be deemed as Job Abandonment and be grounds for an official warning.
  1. We don’t frown on people taking time off, but rather encourage people to take care of themselves and others by having some time away. If you notice that your co-worker is working long hours over a sustained period, you may want to let them know about the time off policy.

  2. We encourage all team members to take time off for holidays they observe. Timezynk embraces asynchronous communications, so calls can be recorded and watched later. No one should ever be expected to attend calls on days they are not working or on official public holidays.

  3. You don’t need to worry about taking time off to go to the gym, take a nap, go grocery shopping, do household chores, help someone, take care of a loved one, etc. If you have urgent tasks, but something comes up or takes longer than expected, just ensure the rest of the team knows and someone can pick up the tasks.

  4. Please remember to turn on your out of office message and include the contact details of a co-worker in case anything urgent or critical comes into your inbox while you’re away. If you have to respond to an incident while on-call outside of your regular working hours, you should feel free to take off some time the following day to recover and be well-rested.

Communicating Your Time Off

Communicate broadly when you will be away so other people can manage time efficiently, projects don’t slip through the cracks, and so that you don’t get bothered while away.

  1. Add your time off to your schedule in Timezynk. Take note to select the correct absence code.
  2. Add an out of office automated response including the dates you plan to be away and the contact details of a colleague.
  3. Decline any meetings you will not be present in, so that the organizer will not wait for you.
  4. Send a message to your teams slack channel or to #general about your planned leave, especially if you are a manager or team leader.

Returning from your time off

Returning from some time off of any length can feel overwhelming. Consider implementing these strategies when returning from time off in order to make the most of the rest and reflection you’ve achieved.

  1. Remember that it’s normal to take extra time to catch up after returning from time off. Taking time off doesn’t mean that you need to work extra hours before or after your vacation. When taking extended time off, expect to have reduced capacity to take on new work the week of your return while you’re catching up on the work that happened while you were away. Remember that it’s impossible to know everything.

  2. Honor a window of transition when returning from PTO and recognize that rest and time off is productive. Big, reflective moments may happen when you take a step back and reflect. Before catching up on all missed emails and Slack messages, consider first revisiting priority projects to take action on these reflections. This could look like blocking off a few days with no meetings to complete deep work or hosting a collaborative session with your team to brainstorm.

  3. When returning from time off, it can be helpful to schedule a coffee chat or two on the day of your return to get caught up, share stories from your time off, and simply reconnect with your team members. It also provides a nice break from to-dos and unread emails. This type of conversation may occur organically in a colocated office but needs to be managed with intent in an all-remote company.

Sick time

If you are ill, we want you to take care of yourself. To facilitate this, you should take sick time when you need it. Working when you are sick can aggravate the sickness or drain to much energy and lead to more need for recovery later or burn-out in the long run. Respect yourself and your colleagues by refraining from work when you are not feeling well. You need to report when you take sick time, by entering the dates into Timezynk. If possible also post a notice of your absence on your teams slack channel.

Recognizing Burnout

It is important for us to take a step back to recognize and acknowledge the feeling of being “burned out”. We are not as effective or efficient when we work long hours, miss meals or forego nurturing our personal lives for sustained periods of time. If you feel that you or someone on your team may be experiencing burnout, be sure to address it right away.

To get ahead of a problem, be sure to communicate with your manager if any of the following statements ever apply to you:

  • “I am losing interest in social interaction.” - This is especially dangerous in an all-remote setting.
  • “I’ve lost the motivation to work.” - Everyone has days when they don’t want to work but if you hear yourself saying this often, you’re on the road to burnout.
  • “I often feel tired.” - Indicative of being overworked for prolonged periods of time.
  • “I get agitated easily.”
  • “I’ve been hostile to my coworkers.” - You see yourself “snap” at people for no apparent reason.
  • “I’ve been having headaches often.” - A headache can manifest itself for multiple reasons but if you catch yourself only having headaches on work days, it is time to evaluate your situation.

These and similar symptoms might get missed or dismissed, as people who are on the path to burnout, or who are burnt out, are usually unable to spend the mental energy to recognize it in themselves. Having an external source objectively identify the situation can be helpful. A great tool for objectively recognizing burn out is https://burnoutindex.org.

If someone is showing signs of burnout, they should take time off to focus on things that are relaxing and improve their overall health and welfare.

As a manager, it is your task to evaluate your team’s state of mind. Address possible burnout by discussing options with your team member to manage contributing stressors and evaluate the workload. Some things to help with this:

  • Try to follow each of your team members' work habits. If they start being less efficient, or working more hours, they might be on the road to burnout.
  • Try to keep track of when they had their last day off. If they hadn’t had a personal day in a long time, look closer at their behavior.
  • Make sure you let your team members know they can talk to you about their challenges.
  • When you recognize symptoms of burnout in others, help them to get out the “Burnout trap”. Don’t just tell people to take a break, but help them arrange things so they can take a break. Ask why they feel they can’t take a break (there are almost certainly real, concrete reasons) and then ask permission to get busy putting things in place that will overcome those barriers. People might be trapped by their own fatigue, being too worn out to find the creative solutions needed to take a break.

Don’t let burnout creep up on you. Working remotely can allow us to create bad habits, such as working straight through lunch to get something finished. Once in a while this feels good, perhaps to check that nagging task or big project off the list, but don’t let this become a bad habit. Before long, you’ll begin to feel the effects on your body and see it in your work.

Keep in mind that you are not alone! Chances are that you have a colleague who already experienced burnout or has been on the road to burnout. Schedule coffee calls with your team members or with anyone you’d like to talk to. Talk to your manager.

Take care not to burn yourself out!