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Vacation and Work Life Balance by Telle Whitney, CEO, Anita Borg Institute

I leave next Tuesday for a three week vacation in Turkey and Greece. Of course it is crazy busy getting ready, but I am really looking forward to it. For me, my productivity greatly increases if I have some down time, including being disconnected.  

I leave next Tuesday for a three week vacation in Turkey and Greece. Of course it is crazy busy getting ready, but
I am really looking forward to it. For
me, my productivity greatly increases if I have some down time, including being
disconnected.

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At ABI we work with many corporations who strive for a more
diverse and productive workforce. Since
I regularly see how increased hours results in diminished productivity, I was
dismayed by some of the results from our recent study “Climbing the Technical Ladder: Obstacles and Solutions for Mid-Level Women
in Technology
”, where it is clear that many employees believe that vacation,
while provided, is discouraged. Some of
the comments we heard include

“Now, I find very guilty in saying I want
vacation. In this role and especially working part-time, I find it very
hard to even tell my boss that this is what I’m expecting to do and this is
what I want to do. I think, you know, I can be equally productive, probably
happier if I get that time off. I don’t think he would say no, either,
but there’s just definitely a mentality. People around you, they don’t
take time off.” – mid-level technical woman

 

“I don’t think it’s the nature
of the work. I think it’s the way the culture has grown up because I’ve
actually seen the work. I’ve been able to help people balance their lives
a little more and the quality of their work didn’t suffer as a result of
it. It’s mostly and it was true of me when I was much younger there was
kind of a hero mindset that if you’re working a lot of hours and you’re somehow
doing something wonderful. Basically if you’re social life and your work
life are the same then being at work all the time is fine because they’re your
friends.” – high level technical man

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I understand from recent data that many people are being
forced to take vacations, and it is causing them economic challenges, and I realize
that for many men and women, their pay check supports their family, and they
are compelled to work as much as possible.
But in the high tech industry, I’ve seen many people work the hours
because they felt that they had to do it to be successful at their
company. Often they leave because that
kind of success is not what they want.
Many women pay dearly financially to have life flexibility.

 

I believe that a vacation provides clean and open space in
the brain where creativity can emerge. I
know for me that time where I am unconnected is more beneficial to my ability
to do my job than any other choice I make.
For colleagues that truly disconnect, I see the positive difference it
makes in their contributions. I believe
in vacation. I also see that enlightened
managers do too.

 

I am looking forward to the change of scenery, and the new
ideas that I know will come. Yes, I am
taking a blackberry, but my staff knows to send only high priority items. I know how valuable this is for me and for
the organization, regardless of what the pundits say.

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I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

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