If you’re already working from home, and not going into the office, why do you need to take time off? This was a real question a reporter asked me the other day. My response was a carefully crafted list of reasons taking time off is important, no matter the circumstances.
What I really wanted to say was, “seriously, dude?”
The question reveals a couple of deep-seated biases when it comes to remote work. First, that working from home or remotely is somehow “less than” going to a formal work location. The other prejudice is that since you’re home and surrounded by your family, every day is some kind of vacation. So stop whining, you slacker!
Here is the reality:
While there are advantages to working from home, it’s not unusual for those who do so to already put in more cumulative work hours in a week than their peers who work out of a central location. Remote workers frequently burn out at a higher rate and switch jobs more often than those who work out of a central location.
Being home under the current COVID-19 circumstances isn’t exactly restful and relaxing anyway. All we’re doing is adding more events and distractions to an already full work day (or cramming a full work day into a full day of managing a household, depending on your circumstances).
Putting off our time off
A lot of us have vacation time coming to us, and we’ve been reluctant to take it. Many people are “staying on the job,” out of a sense of loyalty to the company or their teammates. That’s admirable. But too many workers, especially in North America, already have more personal and vacation time accrued than they take every year. Not only are they giving money back to the company, they are sacrificing rest, relaxation and recovery time that will make them more productive overall. Their family and other responsibilities may require more attention than you’re giving them at the moment. Priorities matter.
Here are a few things you need to hear if you work from home. (And if you need to share this with your boss, tell them we said so!)
While working from home is often a perk, it does not mean you don’t work as hard or suffer the same amount of stress as those who schlep to the office every day.
As a remote worker, you have the same legal rights as those who work in a traditional setting.
Even when you do ask for or schedule time off, you may not be taking advantage of it. The curse of having work follow you around on your phone, or the temptation to stay in touch when you should be recharging your batteries is often difficult for people to manage.
If you’re reluctant to use some of your vacation time now, imagine what it will be like when businesses reopen and it’s “all hands on deck.” There will be a lot of pressure to forego vacation time since, “it’s not a good time right now, and we really need you.” A lot of us who are planning vacations later in the year are banking personal time. How convinced are you that you’ll be permitted to take the time you want? Meanwhile, the stress is building and you may be suffering the effects of mental and physical exhaustion now.
Working from home is work. The contract (written or implicit) you have with your employer still exists. Talk to your manager and your HR department about the right thing to do.
You need to be physically and spiritually in peak form for your customers, your manager, your teammates, your family and your own health and well-being. Take care of yourself.
And yes, Mr. Reporter, even if you work from home you need to take time off.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. You can pre-order Kevin and Wayne’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, now.