I like being by the sea, as the song goes, but instead I sit at my laptop. A light summer rain is falling outside the window and my inbox is full of out-of-office e-mails.
It’s inevitable. Almost everyone is gone. They should only be contacted in emergencies. They will check email sporadically and otherwise reply on September 1st.
Should Ireland and Irish bosses close for August? Could we close for August? I mean, why bother working at full capacity when there’s hardly anyone around to reply to your emails or buy your products or use your services?
August is perfect for idlers, but in the past only the French took the whole month off to spend four weeks sunbathing by the sea. Post Covid I’m hearing more and more people saying they’ll be working in an Italian AirBnB this summer rather than in humid Ireland while trying to wind down for the month.
It took a global pandemic to show employers that employees didn’t have to be desk monkeys bound to the perpetual tyranny of the nine-to-five. The virus has shown us all that most team meetings are a waste of time, that being present does not equal productivity, and that there are other ways of working besides a model we’ve borrowed from the 19th century.
We had hoped that the post-pandemic world would see major changes in the workplace, but concepts like the four-day week have not materialized so far. I’m saying we should cancel August entirely.
A blog post by American social psychologist and author Brené Brown on the Buddhist concept of sacred pause went viral earlier this year. In her post, she explains that everyone in her organization has been asked to take four weeks’ paid leave this summer in addition to their normal annual leave.
After reading Brown’s post, Jo Hunter, chief executive of British social enterprise 64 Million Artists asked, “Why can’t we do the same?”
She gave employees the month of August off with full pay. This is on top of the 25 vacation days they already get.
“Once we got the idea in our head,” she said, “it was very hard to say we’re not going to do it.”
Hunter said it’s important to let people “stop and reset” after a challenging few years. She said: “After the pandemic, everyone struggled and despite having a little holiday, people didn’t get a chance to reset properly. It took us a month to do that.”
The hope is that a summer vacation together will have a positive effect on the company and its employees. Hunter said: “It’s an investment in our people. I think they will be more productive and focused when they come back. It has also helped us focus on the work we need to complete before the end of July. The hiatus means we’re just more focused on what we’re doing.”
Why aren’t more of our employers following suit? Well, bear with me bosses: Holidays do increase our productivity. A few years ago, consulting firm E&Y conducted an internal study of its employees and found that for every additional 10 hours of vacation time an employee took, their managers’ year-end performance ratings increased by 8 percent.
Proper, long, relaxed vacations also encourage creativity. As Daniel J Levitin, former director of the Music, Cognition and Expertise Laboratory at McGill University, said New York Times, During most of the hours we spend at work, the task-driven part of our brain is in overdrive. But when we allow ourselves to daydream, our minds can produce our greatest insights and innovations.
“This brain state, characterized by the flow of connections between disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight when we are able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable,” he said.
That means you might be better prepared to solve that pesky problem or perfect that presentation while becoming “native” to Kerry than sitting at your desk scrolling through your social feed. Instead, more time away from work has been shown to increase our performance.
And if your kids are three months out of school and you just manage to stumble through August with a patchwork of help from grandma, expensive summer camps and TikTok videos, a statewide shutdown would answer all child care prayers.
A deadly virus has shown us that almost everything we thought we knew about work, productivity and work-life balance is wrong. It has changed how and where we work. We know that we should never go back to the way we used to be. I hope that in the end Covid will also change the way we work.
Looking at the structure of our working life, how we could improve it and how much free time is healthy is neither silly nor frivolous. It’s a necessary conversation that should happen in time for next summer.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/pandemic-transformed-how-we-work-lets-take-that-further-by-logging-off-for-a-month-41880798.html The pandemic has changed the way we work – let’s take it a step further by opting out for a month