Concept of Vacation-to stay available or not

Ofcourse again RM’s post triggered memories and thoughts that instead of hogging all her comment space (I DID leave a big comment there though!) I decided to put it here…

I worked at the client place for about 8 months in the US as a contractor from my first company. Fortunately I was the only person in the team who was a contractor and the others were all the clients themselves. So, my lead, the Subject Matter Expert (SME) were all quite older to me and very confident of what they were doing. Including their vacation time or their time after work.

I’ve seen that the general trend there is to get to work really early by about 7 and leave by 3. And those 8 hours they do only work -they hardly take many breaks… My lead was one such guy. A Baseball fanatic, a family man with 4 kids – he would be at his desk by 7 and leave sharp at 3.We used to have project production releases every fortnight on friday nights which I would do it from home at midnight and the rest of the week we would all be on high alert for any issues because it was all about a lot of company money transactions… After one such Friday release, the first 2 days were fine and then the we  caught a bug on wednesday at 4pm. It was something major at the business level and we are all desperately trying to get it resolved when we realised that my lead is missing. Then the manager called him like 5 times but there was no response.
The next day the guy walks in coolly and gets into this meeting where the manager asks him where he was and that he was *needed* yesterday for the issue which we somehow managed to get a work around, and he says: “You know C, that wednesdays are my Golf days – I leave by 3”. My eyes grow wide! And then when the manager says he could’ve atleast picked up the call so we could call him back: “Oh! I dont take any office calls once Im off for the day, I have a family and my own life-dont expect me to take office calls once I leave work, unless I mention myself that I will work from home!” By this time my jaws have dropped to the floor.

Here I was, refused leaves and comp-offs for working even on saturdays and sundays gettign hardly 3hrs of sleep because of the work pileup… I realised that I was plain stupid! I did not know where to draw the line and how to put my foot down…

That was when I realised how we ‘fear’ the organisation, the manager we report to or even how we dont know how to compartmentalise work and home/family. How to switch-off from work once we leave from work – either on a holiday or just home!

And there is also a big part played by the higher management itself. In the US if you cite your personal problems/if you inform that you will not be available – even if you are going gambling to Vegas (Yes, I said it and they were cool about it!) they respect your personal space and refrain from calling you even. They understand that you have a life beyond the work space. And it is necessary to unwind/ actually live life outside the 4 A/Ced walls of the office.  Here once you reach a ‘level’ you need to be avaliable 24/7.(This was told to me by a senior manager when I told him my son was sick and I had the mobile on silent at 10.30pm in the night.) And that ‘level’ is for everyone from 6months to 16 years experience…

So, who will break this trend? Trend of working 12 hrs everyday all 7days of the week? Trend of expecting to be available when you are on a holiday?

Now, I have begun the trend myself, at the cost of much ire from the seniors – Trend of NOT being available over weekends/holidays/ even after 6pm in the evenings.Come what may!

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