Coming Back to Work After Vacation – What it May Say About Your Company Time-Off Policies

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by Nindo Mom on January 5, 2011

Did you walk back into work after vacation with your teeth clenched, fearing what you would find? Or maybe you already knew.

After the Christmas holiday, I had a pretty good feeling I knew what awaited me when I returned to the office based on what I had seen happen to one of my supervisors after he took off three days earlier that month. And I was not disappointed–it was exactly what most people fear when they consider taking time off.

It was like a scene out of the hit TV show The Office–one where you laugh semi-hysterically–yet tearfully–as you realize it’s an all-too-common occurrence in real life. Your desk is piled high with work in every in box you had–even the ones that weren’t really meant to be in boxes.

If this scenario resembles your work life, here’s what this may say about your employer, bless their pointy little heads:

Your employer found a gold mine when they found you–the only person who could possibly do what you do for the company. So any time you go on vacation, there’s no possible way anyone can complete the work you would normally do–it’ll just have to wait until you return.


Your employer is badly run, and doesn’t bother to establish policies wherein employees actually cover for each other, ensuring work gets done while people are out on vacation.

I wonder what would happen if, when members of the military go home on leave, their posts–whether they be in the field, at ops, or wherever–were simply left empty and unmanned until vacationers came back? Or how about airplane pilots? Hmm…okay, I admit that’s a little different. But my point is this: it seems pretty inefficient for any part of a business to come to a screeching halt just because one person  goes on vacation.

If an employer has a good teamwork system set up, then any given person in the office setting would always have a couple of odd tasks (that they’ve been trained for in advance) from individuals that happen to be on vacation that week. This way, there wouldn’t need to be an avalanche of work waiting on anyone’s desk when they come back from vacation. Because that’s almost enough to make someone NOT want to come back. . . .

A Possible Alternative to “The Avalanche Effect”

In the absence of the teamwork structure described above, each employee must complete all of their own tasks without assistance or coverage from their fellow employees. This being the case, doesn’t it make sense that time off (ie, vacation time) should be unlimited? I know for a fact that some companies already operate this way–I was offered a position with one, and my onetime fiancee worked for another. And of course, this is basically how business owners operate–taking off the time they need while making sure any work they need to do is complete.

It’s not all willy-nilly, of course. Although employees in this situation can technically take off whenever–and as often as–they like, they know they must keep up with their work. Which is the main goal of any job, isn’t it? And since an employee with such a benefit would doubtless want to ensure their continuation with such a forward-thinking company, they would certainly push hard to fulfill their responsibilities there. Perhaps with even greater genuine motivation than the employee who knows he/she will just be returning from vacation to find a stack of work as tall as Mount Olympus on their desk.

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