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To address worker burnout, some companies are shutting down for a week

Kristin Schwab Jul 2, 2021
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Companies including LinkedIn, Bumble and Hootsuite are requiring workers to take a week off. Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

To address worker burnout, some companies are shutting down for a week

Kristin Schwab Jul 2, 2021
Heard on:
Companies including LinkedIn, Bumble and Hootsuite are requiring workers to take a week off. Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images
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More than 15 months into this pandemic, worker burnout is still going strong. More than two-thirds of workers believe burnout has worsened during the pandemic, according to an Indeed poll. And we’ve seen it show up in the job quit rate, which is at its highest in decades.

Companies are scrambling to figure out what to do. For LinkedIn, Bumble and others, the answer is to shut down, company-wide, for a full week.

Hootsuite, too. Almost all of Hootsuite’s 1,000 workers will be off next week. Tara Ataya, chief people and diversity officer at the social media management platform, cannot wait. She said her plans include: “splash park if the weather holds up here, going to the park with my son, doing some reading.”

The company-wide weeklong break, a first, took some planning. Hootsuite had to prepare its customers for the shutdown. And it had to convince employees that yes, it’s real, meaning no emails and no Slack.

“The tone starts at the top,” Ataya said.

That message is key to a company-wide break, said Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton. It could force employees to actually disconnect.

Some 42% of Americans working from home didn’t plan to take any time off last summer, according to the personal finance site Value Penguin. Still, Cappelli is skeptical that a week off will help with employee fatigue.

“Are we really cutting back on the work? Or are we just giving people a day to put it off?” he asked.

This can be true of any vacation; you work twice as hard before and return to a pile of to-dos. Even if the whole company is off, the rest of the world is still churning. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to fully shut down most workplaces. Hootsuite will keep a small customer service team working — they’ll get a floating week later on.

Of course a week off is nice, said Paula Davis, who consults with companies on stress management, “but it ignores the reality of burnout, which is that it’s actually a really complex systemic and workplace culture issue.”

Some of the most common reasons for that burnout are understaffed teams, poor leader support and a lack of recognition for the work contributing to the stress.

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