In Defense of Downtime Outside of the Workplace

In Defense of Downtime Outside of the Workplace

Ahhh, vacation. In about two weeks I’ll be headed to backwoods Illinois by way of St. Louis to spend 7 glorious days with friends and family. I know it still several days away, but I’m already calling friends and family for weather updates and planning my wardrobe. As I’m digging through my closet pulling out my must have comfy pants, I stopped for a moment and thought – “what about my laptop?”

Oh no. I plan on taking my laptop on vacation.

I already have coverage planned. One of my colleagues is going to take care of my clients, and I have my calendar blocked. It’s early enough for me to insure that I won’t miss anything important the week I’m gone. I won’t be scheduling any interviews or hiring manager meetings. I don’t have to work. So why am I freaking out at the thought of being disconnected?

We live in such a hyper-connected world. Facebook status updates, Foursquare check-ins, Instagram selfies, is there anything we don’t share? And that’s just on the personal side. I get work email on my phone and every time I see that little button with a number next to it, I have to check. I just can’t seem to stay away. My boss has a great 24 hour rule – you have twenty-four whole hours before a response to an email is required. If only I could live by that.

As I plan my vacation, I’m setting a goal for myself. NO WORK. I know I won’t be able to stop myself from getting on to social media. I will simply HAVE to tweet a picture of my kids at Wyatt Earp’s birthplace, which apparently is a short drive from my aunt’s farm. No one will believe I actually cleaned a barn or milked a cow if I don’t put it on Facebook. But can I stay away from work? What if I leave my laptop behind…. No iPad, turn off my work email. Can I actually do it?

I don’t know, but I’m sure going to give it a try. I’m looking forward to giving my kids my undivided attention. I’m hoping I’ll remember to stop and smell the roses before snapping a picture of them. I feel reasonably certain that my job will still be here when I get back.

When I extend an offer to a candidate, I always linger a bit over benefits, specifically time off. I break down our vacation policy, which is pretty great, and remind our soon-to-be employees the importance of downtime. I make them promise not to forget to take advantage of our generous time off plan. So why is it so hard for ME to do the same?

In my 15 years as a recruiter, I could probably count on one hand the number of actual vacations I’ve really taken. In other words, not many. I couldn’t even take a proper maternity leave with my last two children without checking in more often than necessary. This year, I hope will be different. I’m going to leave my laptop at home, disable my email on my phone and enlist my friends and family to keep me focused on what matters. Them.

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Amy Ala

Staffing Consultant at Microsoft by day, wine sipping kid-wrangler by night, Amy Ala has been in recruiting since the late 90s. She's convinced the #1 trait in successful recruiters is a sense of humor. Amy hopes to someday have time for real hobbies, ideally something that involves copious amounts of wine. Until then, she settles for feeding her reality show addiction while sipping Merlot. Connect with Amy.


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