Thoughts on taking time off, from a brand new hire

My manager recently commended me for taking so much time off from work. I felt a pang of guilt. 

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We had just completed my 90-day review, and it went well in spite of what my

impostor syndrome told me to expect. Taking time off wasn’t a problem at all. On the contrary: my manager said he was going to take more vacation days because he was inspired by my use of Zapier‘s unlimited paid time-off policy.

I wasn’t expecting that, but maybe I should have been.

Fear of going out of office

The last company I worked for also had an unlimited time-off policy, but I struggled to use it, especially during the pandemic. I was leading and contributing to a project during my last six months there, and I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere—that the project would fall behind if I wasn’t working on it.

Turns out that wasn’t true at all. I was forced to take a few sick days here and there because I would inevitably get a migraine that left me unable to see what was on my computer screen. I eventually took more days off here and there. And you know what? The project didn’t fall behind. My coworkers had all the information needed and knew who to talk to when I was away. 

Taking time off didn’t hurt the team. Not taking time off, though, burned me out. My partner noticed, my close friends noticed, and I’m sure my team noticed. In all likelihood, using my vacation days actually benefited my team—because I came back refreshed.

The second time around

So that’s why, when I accepted the job at Zapier, I immediately requested time off for vacations I already had planned with my partner and best friends. And that wasn’t all. I found myself requesting days off for friends’ birthdays, and I took all of the Canadian holidays off too (we get one every month up here). I used a week of vacation time in my first two months.

I’d like to say I’d gotten over my fear of being out of office, but I hadn’t. It crept back in, which made me nervous about my 90-day review. Every time I requested time off, I was worried I would get fired. That I was letting my coworkers down. That someone would notice I was gone a lot and would think that I didn’t contribute enough.

As I learned from that conversation with my manager, those were all grandiose lies that just fueled my shame of using a benefit that we all have at Zapier.

There’s a reason for the policy

Zapier is great at encouraging us to make the most of our unlimited days off. Even our CEO, Wade, is vocal about taking advantage of the policy. From a recent internal blog post he wrote: 

Also, remember that time off is good for you! One of the best things I’ve done for Zapier, but also for the people in my life, is pay attention to my physical and mental health.

Having this encouragement, especially from managers and other leads, alleviates the stress that impostor syndrome likes to stir up around taking “too much” time off. Which is, again, a story—not facts.

So do yourself and everyone in your life (including your colleagues!) a favor by requesting some vacation time—no matter how recently you started the job. If the pandemic or finances or anything else makes it hard for you to travel, try a staycation. Work on a personal project, or pick up a new hobby. Or, you know, just binge watch TV shows and nap. 

It’s an act of kindness to yourself—one that you deserve.

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