Are We at War or What?

Recently the company that I work for declared that unused vacations were growing out of control. The Company has to carry unused vacations as a fiscal liability, and the vacation balance is starting to become a sizeable obligation. So a couple of decisions were announced: First, there will be no vacation carry-forward after this fiscal year (which ends in June). Second, all staff must take all of their accrued vacation before the end of June, and furthermore, should take at least half of their accrued vacation in this calendar year. I have 20 days unused at the moment, so I’ve been FORCED to take 10 working days vacation this month on top of the statuary holidays!
You should hear the complaining: “They’re making me take vacation!!” On this face of it this might seem surprising, but I think it is a case of not letting the team down.
It’s a bit like Iraq. It is amazing to hear volunteer soldiers who are injured can’t wait to get back to what is truly an awful situation. They don’t want to let their comrades face danger without them. It’s very noble to be sure, but I think it is also a quite primitive and fundamental tribal instinct.
My colleagues and I are all working hard – much more than the 37.5 required hours per week (or whatever it is). Making money may be part of the motive, but in fact extra work can only influence bonuses in the near term. Mostly I think we are ‘in it together’ as a team. I work long hours because they work long hours, and they expect that I will work long hours because they are, and since I know they expect it…
It’s hardly the same as being under hostile fire, but there is arguably a health dimension. The Company has certainly taken that tack: “We don’t want you to burn out. Your performance will be better after you have had a real break. This is an important health issue.”
I’m actually looking forward to having more than two weeks off, and my guilt is lessened by the knowledge that many of my colleagues are being forced to take the same time off. Mind you, since most of us work from home, working often just means looking at our e-mail in-boxes… Some have already declared that they will book out the vacation time and work as usual – I'm pretending not to have heard that.

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