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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vacation rarely feels like vacation if there's extra work to do before and after to make up for the time taken off. That's why startups and Fortune 500 firms alike are rethinking the structure of paid time off, extending company-wide vacations.

Why it matters: The pandemic exacerbated burnout at work, and that's a major contributor to "the great resignation," in which upward of 40% of workers are actively considering leaving their jobs.

What's happening: A growing number of firms are giving employees the same day or week off — separate from allotted personal vacation time — and finding that it's a lot easier for workers to unplug if their managers and peers are doing it at the same time.

  • LinkedIn gave its entire staff a week off in April, and the dating app Bumble did the same in June.
  • The social media management platform Hootsuite has a company-wide week off scheduled for July. The firm made sure to announce it a couple of months in advance so employees could plan for it and let clients know, says Tara Ataya, Hootsuite's chief people and diversity officer.
  • Pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb gave its employees two "days of rest" this year, during which everyone, across the world, was off.

The big picture: With surveys indicating that life satisfaction has fallen for workers during the pandemic, firms have tried several policies to combat burnout, such as making time off mandatory or giving workers unlimited vacation days or mental health days. But no approach works quite as well as company-wide time off, experts say.

  • When workers select their own vacation days, they'll still get emails and Slack messages unless they ditch their devices, says Lars Schmidt, founder of the human resources consulting firm Amplify. And that's not a realistic expectation in today's digital world. "The idea of synchronizing time off is that you’re 'off off,'" he says.
  • "Over the last 18 months, we’ve been living in this digital world with pings and emails, and it all puts a strain on us," Ataya says. "There is something special about all unplugging at the same time."

But, but, but: Telling everyone to go home for the week is not possible for all types of workplaces.

  • Think about 24-hour drugstores or newsrooms or e-commerce warehouses where work responsibilities exist 24/7 — even on weekends and during holidays.
  • One solution is for companies to give entire teams synchronized time off, so even if the whole firm is not on vacation, at least workers and their managers are off at the same time. But even that isn't possible for places like hospitals where the work can't stop.

The bottom line: America's burnout crisis bubbled up during the pandemic — and workplaces need to get creative to address it. In our perpetually online and connected world, just doling out vacation days is no longer enough.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 5, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on workforce development

On Tuesday, October 5, Axios media reporter Sara Fischer, publisher Nick Johnston and executive editor Aja Whitaker-Moore discussed the value of workforce development in a rapidly changing job landscape, featuring Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Alma Adams and Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell

Sen. Mark Warner underscored the importance of investing in human capital and explained his recent efforts to include a worker training tax credit in the reconciliation package.   

  • On incentivizing companies to invest in their employees: “If I could wave my magic wand, I would create a new tax credit for businesses that invest in workers, and I would give them the bigger tax credit for low-income and lower skilled workers.”
  • On the increasing amount of jobs that require high-level skills: “We think about giving workers more freedom to choose a future career, but I do think we need to match that with a little better assessment of what kind of careers are out there, recognizing that not all careers are going to require four-year college degrees, but they are going to require additions beyond high school.”  

Mary Schmidt Campbell explained how Spelman College prepares students and adult learners to adapt to the contemporary workforce, additional steps the government could take to invest in skill development for workers, and how to incentivize employees to improve their own skills.  

  • On preparing students to navigate an uncertain job market: “It’s really imperative for those of us who are in the field of education to think about how we educate for the future. Whatever job exists now could potentially disappear in the next five years.”  
  • On how companies can inspire their workers to develop new skills: “I think it is a powerful incentive when a company says to its employees, as a matter of your employee benefits, just as you’re entitled to health care or dental care or vision care, we are also going to provide for you to be upskilled.” 

Rep. Alma Adams outlined how HBCUs are developing a talent pipeline for the future, current campus conversations illuminating students’ career concerns, and how to ensure students from community colleges also benefit from workforce development initiatives.  

  • On input from the HBCU community detailing their priorities for growth:  “I’m hearing that we need to upgrade our campuses, we need to make sure that we have the technology that’s appropriate to train this workforce. We want to make sure that we can attract not only good students, but good faculty and staff, and have the kind of research that is commensurate with what we need to do to make sure that we have not only a good workforce, but one that is sustainable.”
  • On why it is critical to upskill workers to meet marketplace demands: “We’ve got a lot of jobs out here. We don’t have many people who are prepared and trained to do them.”

Axios SVP of Events and Creative Strategy Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Pathstream CEO Eleanor Cooper, who emphasized the growing demand for workers with multifaceted digital skills. 

  • “Obviously there’s been a large growth in online education since the COVID pandemic, and we see that different learners from different backgrounds with different jobs to be done need different solutions. What we’re talking about here is solving the problems for individuals who face more barriers and more hurdles in the labor market, and those individuals need more than online videos alone.”

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event. 

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adults

Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a booster shot for adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the initial dose.

Why it matters: The advisory committee raised concerns about a dearth of data to support their decision but ultimately decided to support an additional shot for those over 18.

Capitol Police officer indicted for obstructing Jan. 6 investigation

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping hide evidence of a participant's involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.

Driving the news: Officer Michael A. Riley, 50, is accused of telling the unidentified participant, referred to as "Person 1," in the Jan. 6 riot to delete posts from Facebook, which showed them in the Capitol during the attack.

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