Today I’ve been back at work for one week. Back at work after four weeks of extended personal leave. I could write a full-length novel about the why, how, who, and what of my semi-sabbatical experience. The short version is: every employer should give extended paid leave, and every employee should take it. I’ll give you three reasons.
1. We are People First.
People First is the single most important Horizon Point mantra. We live it and breathe it every day. That’s how we got here – this place in time where each of our team members is taking 4+ weeks of extended leave for rest and renewal. Our Founder, Mary Ila, took one long look at us during a quarterly planning meeting and saw a team of women who had forgotten that we, ourselves, are People First. The buck stopped there.
Our boss got vulnerable with us about her physical, mental, and emotional health (all deteriorating), and we got vulnerable right back. All of us called to the foreground our very real symptoms of Too Much Syndrome. Too much COVID-19 uncertainty, too much schedule changing, too much brain fog, too much or not enough of everything else. In that quarterly planning meeting, we came back to ourselves, saw our very real burnout staring us in the face, and landed squarely on the realization that we are just people.
Workplaces are made of People who have basic needs and who will predictably burn out without periods of rest.
2. Extended leave clears the fog.
On my second day back at work, I attended a Mental Wellness workshop with a local entrepreneurial center that specializes in woman-owned small business creation and growth. This particular workshop focused on the brain science associated with stress and anxiety. Join me on the journey for a moment. How many of these physiological symptoms have you experienced in the last week?
- Taut muscles
- Hasty decisions
- Foggy thinking
As I sat in that room, I thought back to that quarterly planning meeting. I thought back to snapshots of my personal and professional life and saw every. single. one. of these symptoms. That good ole 20/20 hindsight sure did hit differently this time.
When I look at this list today, only 2 or 3 resonate. My four weeks of paid leave literally gave me new life. The sun came out, and the fog lifted. I’m a better version of myself, which benefits me personally of course, but also benefits my work team. Giving employees an extended moment to clear the fog breathes life into the organization.
3. It’s time for a paradigm shift.
Some of you are ready to give and/or take extended leave. You’re willing and able and ready. Here are 6 Steps for Planning and Implementing Effective Extended Leave.
Some of you are not. I know that paid extended leave is a luxury. I’ve heard time and time again how lucky I am, how lucky my team is, to work for a company and a leader with such a philosophy.
The thing is, we shouldn’t be so lucky. Our company shouldn’t be so different, so unique. This model of People First and the option of paid extended leave should be commonplace. As workplace and community leaders, we can and should shift the paradigm. It has to start somewhere, so why shouldn’t it start with me and you?
A month ago, when asked, “How are you?”, I would’ve (not so jokingly) said, “I’m surviving, but not thriving! Haha.” Ask me today, and I’ll tell you how much I’m thriving. How much my mind has healed. How much better I’m sleeping. How much of my personality came back. How much healthier I feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Extended leave was a blessing for which I’m immeasurably grateful, and now I’m on fire about spreading the wealth to others. It takes a village. Will you join me?
If you are an employer, and you want to explore options for incorporating extended wellness leave into your workplace, let’s work together to shift the paradigm.