How I’m Fighting Employee Burnout With Mandated Days Off

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It's an understatement to say the pandemic radically changed the tenuous balance between our personal and professional lives. Families suddenly shared their workspace with those they never expected to call "co-workers": their partners, children and pets. Without a commute or watercooler conversations, American workers plugged in and put in incredibly long hours. 

Data suggests working from home causes people to work more, and from my own experience, I know that is true. On average, employees work about 2 ½ hours more every day when working from home versus at the office. This practice is not only harming people’s mental health, but impacting physical health as well. A recent study by the World Health Organization shows long work hours are killing thousands of people every year. 

We have always had unlimited vacation time at Media Minefield, but I started to see concerning trends before the pandemic. People were taking larger chunks of time off, but in turn, were going months and months without any vacation days. I believe we each need to prioritize taking care of ourselves to better serve our families, partners, co-workers, clients, customers and communities. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. 

I was unsure of the impact COVID-19 would have on our business, given tightened budgets and a volatile economy. Our team’s work in effective storytelling, social media and strategic communication turned out to be a differentiator to our clients. We grew exponentially throughout the unprecedented year, adding 13 new employees and dozens of new clients. With coronavirus concerns decreasing, I see no change to our business growth forecast. 

Our team is coming back to work in a hybrid and flexible work environment. I didn’t want the pandemic normal to become the new normal. Seeing people work longer hours and going months between vacations could unintentionally cause burnout. 

All of this inspired me to launch MM Unplugged, a program that requires every employee to take at least one day off per month to unwind, relax and unplug. This initiative is on top of our unlimited vacation and flexible work policies. 

It’s going to take a while for the program to be rolled out completely. We obviously still need to provide our clients with excellent service every day, so an entire team can’t take the same day off. I expect to have the program fully implemented by the end of 2021. 

In my eyes, achieving the perfect work-life balance is impossible, but there are steps business leaders can take to level the scales for their employees to achieve work-life satisfaction. Programs like MM Unplugged allow employees the space to be all in when they are at work and all in when they are at home.