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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Why LinkedIn shuts down for 2 full weeks every year

Vacation time is a key benefit for employees. It allows us to better ourselves and come back to work recharged and refreshed.
However, business doesn't stop when employees are on vacation, so many tend to feel overwhelmed by getting everything in order before they leave.
In fact, one study found that about 80% of employees on vacation stayed connected on their smartphones. Many worry that they will come back to work and face stalled projects as a result of their absence.
This fear, coupled with the fact that technology allows you to be connected 24/7, doesn't allow for employees to fully turn off while vacationing. They feel compelled to keep their work moving along, even when their automatic out-of-office reply is up. According to Project: Time Off, 37% of Americans cite that the main reason why they don't take vacations is the fear of returning to a ton of work.
Studies have shown there is a clear correlation between vacation time and job performance. But how do we make sure that employees can actually shut down and not feel like they have to work during their vacations? Enter weeklong company shutdowns. 
LinkedIn was one of the first to start a December company-wide paid shutdown a couple of years prior so that employees could rest, relax, and recharge for the year ahead. By shutting down our entire global operations, employees were able to, for the first time, completely unplug and enjoy their time off without checking email or feeling guilty for being "off" while their peers were on.
Nina McQueen
Over the last several years, we have heard from hundreds of our employees that this is their most prized benefit at LinkedIn. With that feedback, we announced a shift in our U.S. time off benefits, where we added another fully paid weeklong break around the Fourth of July to celebrate with family and friends. We also implemented Discretionary Time Off, a program that breaks free of allotted vacation days and allows employees to act as owners of their time off.
With these two shutdowns, we are encouraging the importance of flexibility and focus on one's personal needs. When employees see their bosses and other company executives not only take time off, but also truly disconnect during the break, they feel empowered to do the same.
Many of our employees have talked about how truly relaxing and liberating it feels to look at their phones during holiday shutdowns and have zero emails from colleagues. As a result, you have employees coming back to work feeling their best and free of burnout.
While every company might not be able to shut down operations every year altogether, any office can incorporate the underlying concepts. Here are a few ways companies and their executives can help employees find personal and professional balance at work:
  1. Stress the importance of balance. We are living in a society today where overworking is not only becoming the norm; it is praised. By emphasizing the importance of taking time off, your employees will be less stressed, happier, and overall better workers.
  2. Lead by example. Employees want to work for a company that sets a precedent for taking breaks and encourages its people to do the same. Four out of five employees said if they felt fully supported by their boss, they would be more likely to take time off. If you are a manager or leader of a team, try to not send out emails during holiday breaks or when you are on vacation to showcase to your team the importance of shutting down.
  3. Trust your employees. Regardless of your company's vacation policy, you have to show your workers that you trust them to use it wisely. By treating your employees like adults when it comes to taking time off, they will in turn place more trust in you.  
There are many different ways to approach company vacation policies. Regardless of what package they offer or the number of paid holidays, companies have to be more in tune with what makes their employees most happy, healthy, and productive.
As companies place a stronger emphasis on personal well-being, so do employees. Vacation is more than just exotic beaches or time with the in-laws, it's an opportunity to disconnect from the day-to-day grind so that we can recharge and come back to work motivated and productive. As Anne Lamott said best, "Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you."
Nina McQueen joined LinkedIn in 2013, to take benefits from a little "b" to a big "B."  She oversees LinkedIn’s benefits and employee experience teams, which include: perks, wellness, relocation, employee events, engagement survey, and most recently, the global inclusion team. Branded InLife, Nina’s programs make life at LinkedIn even better, from must-haves to awesome extras. Most recently, she has been focused on furthering LinkedIn’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Prior to LinkedIn, Nina held similar roles at Facebook, Yahoo, and Gap Inc. Her sweet spot is fast-growth tech companies that see talent as their #1 operating priority.
(Source: Business Insider)

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