Take Your Time (You’ve Earned It)

We’ve all been dealing with the effects of the coronavirus for months now as it proves to be a far formidable foe than we originally thought. But what many people don’t realize — even, oddly enough, while they’re experiencing it — is that COVID fatigue is affecting most of us, whether we’ve tested positive or not.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m tremendously grateful that my family and I have escaped the virus (despite a close call a couple of weeks ago). I understand all too well that so many people haven’t been as fortunate and my heart breaks for all who have lost loved ones or are still fighting.

But, staying safe and healthy doesn’t mean the past six months have been easy.

Working from home may have seemed like a fantasy at one point, but reality hit us fast and hard when workforces went almost entirely remote back in March. In fact, the average workday lengthened by 48.5 minutes in the weeks following stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, and the number of meetings increased by 13 percent, according to a working paper published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Add to this managing childcare and/or home-schooling, plus the unavoidable technology challenges, and you can start to imagine why the home office is anything but relaxing.

Everyone is experiencing some level of anxiety right now — about their health, the economy, social justice, a contentious election — and it’s perfectly understandable. In fact, it would be pretty naïve to thing that the headlines we see every day don’t affect us. Back in March, we all thought we’d be in a better place by now. Who knows what the future holds — or when it will finally get here.

In a normal year (in other words, any year other than 2020), many of us manage built-up stress by taking a vacation, whether to an idyllic destination or with a stay-at-home relaxing break. But with few travel options available right now, people are banking their vacation days preferring to wait until restrictions are lifted. And that’s where we, as leaders, must step in and step up because vacations in the time of COVID are not just nice to haves. They’re need to haves.

I just returned from a week off on Martha’s Vineyard. Now, to be fair, I didn’t take a full week’s vacation at once, but rather the equivalent over a two-week period spent on the island. And trust me, there is value in working from a different location; I was starting to go stir crazy in my multipurpose work/television/fall-asleep-on-the-couch space.

On one of our last nights, my family and I sat around the hotel room eating pizza and giggling at a movie on TNT. It wasn’t necessarily what we had planned for the evening, but the weather, and a group sense of satisfied physical weariness, made it our best possible option. After all, we’d spent much of the vacation “doing things.” Taking bi-plane rides; exercising outdoors (including a yoga session with an alpaca … and yes, I’m serious); shopping our way through the cute towns of the Vineyard; reading Max Barry novels; waking early to catch a sunrise from the beach.

It’s been exhausting.

It’s been exhilarating.

And it’s been a blessing.

Since I joined Skillsoft nine months ago, I’ve been moving at an unabated pace. Of course, I’ve loved every minute of it. But the work is as demanding as it is fulfilling. Layer in a new team, the pandemic, a live event, and a new brand and it’s not been easy. I needed a rest.

And it’s been incredibly fulfilling to vacation (and, yes, even work) in my very favorite place, where I can eat more lobster in two weeks than I will in the rest of the year. And drinking my morning coffee while watching the sunrise over South Beach? Priceless.

Yet, I do feel guilty, which I know is wrong. I *should* be able to take vacation time without that nagging feeling in the back of my head reminding me of all of the things that await me upon return. Maybe I should answer that one email … or check-in on the team, just this once … or sit in on the one leadership meeting that’s scheduled for the week I happen to be away. It’s easy to make excuses and fall right back into work. Resisting (at least some of the time) was worth it.

As we head into the fall (or spring, depending on where you’re reading this), I hope you’ve had an opportunity to take some sort of break.

We should celebrate the work we do — because we’ve all risen to this unprecedented occasion and done amazing work — but we should also celebrate and acknowledge the importance of taking some time away. We’ve earned it.



Chief Marketing Officer at Skillsoft

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