Taking Time Off and Meaning it: Lessons from a Skydiving CEO

For years, workplace burnout has been an issue with American workers leaving more than 27% of their earned PTO in 2018. Then, when the pandemic struck, this issue was magnified, as remote work and travel restrictions made people less likely to use their time off. While a slight change in thinking has begun as more Gen-Z and Millennials have joined the workforce, it’s time to shine a light on this conversation and truly encourage taking time off and a work-life balance.

First and foremost, it’s important to make sure your company’s PTO policies are spelled out on paper and easy to understand. Then, turn your attention to your messaging around time off. Some companies may choose to make it mandatory, others may increase carry-over limits especially as fewer employees have taken time off this year, and still, others may prefer to offer bonuses for pre-scheduling time off as PwC and Google have done. However, you choose to promote time off, the most important thing is to ingrain it into your company culture.

Even with certain policies in place, employees may still need encouragement to take time off. This is when it becomes important to have permission, or mutual trust between leadership and employees, for vacations. It’s also important to help your employees build systems and processes so that they can take time off without working. For example, simply instating a clear coverage system may give your people the security they need to use their vacation time. A large drive for using PTO should also come from leaders. Leaders can push people to step away by blocking time off on their people’s calendars, creating artificial holidays, offering time off as a sign of appreciation, and of course, leading by example and taking their own time off.

Leading by example means both showing employees that you take and enjoy your own time off and encouraging them to do the same. As a CEO myself, I always show my people that I enjoy taking time off by engaging in my favorite activities: skydiving and scuba diving. To date, I’ve gone on over 1000 dives, and I’m always seeking ways to make the most of my time off while encouraging my people to do the same.

Making sure your people know that it is perfectly fine to take personal or mental health days to simply relax at home, engage in self-care, or even skydive is the final piece in the defeating burnout puzzle. Take an interest in what your employees plan to do with their time off by asking questions and also know what brings them enjoyment and encourage them to act on it.

People should not need a “legitimate” reason for taking time off; instead, all time off should be celebrated as it will help your people rest and recharge. Changing the conversation around time off will help you, your employees, and your company. If you need help getting started, simply take a day to do what you love. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.