I grew up watching and loving a show called The Wonder Years, which meant I got an early introduction to the amazing anthem: “With a little help from my friends.”
That show was narrated by an older man looking back on his childhood growing up in ‘60s America. I found myself looking back on my childhood on a recent break away with my fiancée.
It was going to be, and indeed became, the first time in YEARS that I was going to be uncontactable from work and life back home. Social media apps were removed from my phone, email gone, MacBook packed at the bottom of the suitcase (for emergencies), WhatsApp in the trash. I was going to actually have a break.
I think the worry, the guilt, the fear of the unknown made me ill, so my first day or two away were spent popping Tylenol and twitching. What is happening on FB, is work ok? Every day I’m not working is a day wasted. Will people respect the out of office message? What funny jokes are being passed around on WhatsApp? FOMO x 100000.
Guess what???? I survived. The world still turns on its axis and I have come back refreshed and more in control in many aspects.
It was this realisation that sent me back to the Eighties. The annual family holiday. Pre laptops, pre wifi, the only mobile phones were as big as carry-on luggage. My old man ran a business employing 50+ people. Now he might have worked when we were asleep, but my memories are of us playing together, or his head stuck in a John Grisham or Tom Clancy novel – to the annoyance of my mum. He had a holiday.
When people left the office, they left work behind. Importantly, work had to leave them behind. They couldn’t contact them. Maybe a message at hotel reception but the cord was cut. It was healthy, guilt-free rejuvenation.
I think it might be time to help each other – (a little help from our friends) – and make it a legal right to be uncontactable by your employer whilst your away on leave for two weeks or less. I see zero negatives and only positives. A return to the Wonder Years. To use another song from Joe Cocker – making us all ‘Feelin Alright’
The French have started down this path, why not all of us! I think it will have a very positive impact on productivity and mental wellbeing. Now that’s my kind of employee engagement.
What do you think?