Work at a start-up that values you and your time off.
Last month, I took almost 3 weeks off from work for family medical leave. During this time, I was completely offline and focused entirely on my family and our needs. It would never have been possible at the previous small companies I’ve worked in.
The surprising thing is, I’m currently at a small, fully remote start-up that is in hyper growth stage.
Everyone assumes that start-up life means no work-life balance and the inability to step away from your job. I’m glad to have found a place where they take time off and work-life balance seriously.
Before I took this job, my wife cautioned me about companies that offer unlimited time off. From her experience, unlimited time off means there is an implicit upper limit for the amount of time you can take. Unlimited is a fake reality and it places pressure on people to take less time off than if they had fixed 15 or 20 days. In addition, vacation days can be cashed in when you leave a company. You can’t do that with unlimited time off.
At Invisible, everyone is entitled to unlimited time off, with two caveats — that you inform your manager if you plan to take more than 35 days in a year AND you take at least one week off per quarter.
Having been here for more than six months, I’ve found that most people are really good about planning their week or two off each quarter. It allows for people to go offline, relax and rejuvenate. They often come back refreshed and ready to focus on the next challenges.
In a growing technology organization, it is easy to fall into the trap of reaching out to people who have more context on code they worked on and asking them to help you troubleshoot it, even if they are on vacation. I’m glad to say that during the time I’ve been here, the team has resisted the urge to do so and instead is focusing on levelling up our documentation and knowledge base plus implementing a reasonable on-call rotation to help prevent the need of calling people in when they are out of office.
As a product manager who is heavily involved in the product development lifecycle, I felt that I was able to step away from the team and return without incurring too much work debt. It helps to be prepared prior to taking the time off, doing a proper handover and having a great team in place. While I’ve been busy since my return, I was able to catch up within a week and am grateful to my team for moving things forward while I was away.
After many years in the workforce, working with a team that respects you and treats you like family is important to me. I know I am in the right place when I came home to a flower basket, sent from my Invisible family, welcoming my family back from medical leave.
So for everyone who is looking to join a start-up, make sure to find one that values you and your time off. Don’t be easily wooed by unlimited time off. Find out what the parameters are. And for others who are working in start-ups and facing burnout due to the inability to take time off, advocate for yourself and make sure to go completely offline when you take time off.
It can be done and more companies should make this the standard.