Going Off the Grid
Remember that last day of school before the summer break? There was a collective sense of excitement as students and teachers counted the seconds to the final bell of the school year that signified the start of summer.
Once we leave school, we lose that sense of collective excitement as summer nears. Fast forward to 2009, Adobe was going through several key business changes and, as part of that, re-evaluated its employee rewards programs, including the vacation benefit. Adobe made the decision to replace accrued vacation time for exempt employees in the U.S. and Canada with two shutdown periods — one in summer and one in winter, complemented with additional PTO to be used throughout the year — which, initially, was viewed by employees as modestly beneficial (that is, being positive). While a business need initially drove the change, it has quickly become a favorite benefit that is eagerly anticipated by all. Imagine a vacation where incoming email is slowed to 3-4 per day, or being out doesn’t mean missing a critical meeting, or the call volume drops to urgent requests alone.
We have just wrapped up this year’s summer shutdown — and I can say that leading up to it there was that same collective excitement that reminded me of years ago as an eager student waiting for that final bell to ring as we all shared our plans for the break.
During shutdown, unlike other vacation days during the year, I personally work at being more unplugged which is challenging in a global, fast-paced environment, and with my always-on personality. It allows me to feel truly recharged and excited to dive back into driving our team and corporate priorities, and I feel fortunate for the collective break with most of my regional colleagues.
Reflecting on our summer shutdown benefit, I recognize that the value of the shutdown is in respecting people’s time off, whether collective or singular, and believe performance can accelerate when individuals truly get a break from the demands of today’s work environment. As a leader of employee experience, I am acutely aware of the role our leaders play in setting the tone for individuals to have a true vacation break. If we never go off the grid, then what we are saying is that no one else can either. Just like the school summer holiday provided a break while also creating excitement for the year ahead, I find that the collective shutdown provides a shared excitement to return to work and dive back into driving priorities with my team.
Being pragmatic, it is not realistic to think that all companies, functions, or teams can collectively break or shutdown. At Adobe, our customers are our top priority. While many of us did go on break, there were and always are employees across the organization who continue to work, deferring time off to a later time. Regardless of the approach your company takes for vacations, it is important to take a true break (short or long), and return to your role refreshed and excited to drive impact.