Why don't we come back recharged with new energy and ideas from a vacation?

Timeoff does not work

Have you ever returned from a vacation feeling like you haven't had a break at all? Or while you're at the beach, find yourself constantly thinking about the enormous amount of work waiting for you when you return to the office?

Instead of the vacation recharging you with energy and new ideas, the exact opposite happens. Whenever expectations don't match the outcomes, we feel uncomfortable. And vacations are no exception.

Why does this happen?

Let's go back a bit in time, say 1-2 months before your vacation. You have your PTO - the paid time-off. These are your precious 20 or so days per year. But don't even think about taking them all at once. You're too valuable to the organization, and if you're gone for a month, everything will have collapsed by the time you return. At most, take two weeks at a time. Alright - two weeks is not too little. Let's submit the request. On paper, like in 1978, or through a system like TIMEOFF.GURU. The boss approves. One week before the long-awaited vacation, you try to finish all the work that has been waiting for you, and even a bit more. in the meantime colleagues are asking, 'Who do we ask for whatever-it-is while you're gone?' And the boss, on the last day before the vacation, smiles and says, 'Have a nice vacation! Just carry your phone, in case I need to call you. And you'll have your laptop with you, right?'

The first day of vacation arrives. But nothing has changed - except the scenery. Because the phone keeps vibrating with every email, and we instinctively reach out to see if something has 'caught fire' back in the office.

Increased productivity and mobility are great. Indeed, we do more things in less time than before. But on the flip side is stress. No wonder that with each year, the ratio between all types of leave and sick days is only increasing in favor of sick days. These sick days cost so much for everyone - for the person, the organization, and the state.

What is [not] the solution?

In few companies (like Netflix), the policy for leave says, 'Take as much vacation as you want, whenever you want.' Unlimited vacations. Wow - what a dream! But what happens in practice? When there's no limit on the number of days, people start to hesitate about how many days to take because no one wants to be known as 'the one who took the most days off in the year.' Instead of resting more, social pressure causes people to take less time off. In practice, instead of solving the problem and making teams happier, unlimited vacations create more tension.

What [might be] the solution?

Since a fixed number of days doesn't work and an unlimited number doesn't work either, is there anything that actually does the job? According to Stefan Sagmeister and Shashank Nigam, the solution is as follows:

Stefan Sagmeister


Stefan Sagmeister, in his TED talk, suggests an (extreme) version: taking one year off every seven years. During this one year, the company doesn't work with any clients. In the socialist era, this was called a "creative leave." However, I think it couldn't be taken an unlimited number of times.

In other companies and sectors, they work with more manageable periods. In Italy, it's a social norm for businesses to shut down in August. Even in Bulgaria, there are one or two enterprises that close at a certain time of the year, and absolutely all employees are on vacation.

SimpliFlying initially decided to take a break every seven weeks. And it's mandatory. The policy is made so that you don't decide when to take a vacation. At first glance, this may seem like a disadvantage, but on the other hand, it helps a lot in structuring the work: both the team and the clients know well in advance when someone will be on vacation, and when the time comes, that person is really on vacation. Over time, they found that every seven weeks was too often, and they changed it to every 12 weeks. These weeks match very well with some legislation systems - so the 20 days per year are not exceeded, and the breaks are distributed evenly. In SimpliFlying, 12 weeks seemed too much (and they would seem a lot to me too, after previously resting every 7 weeks), and currently, they rest every 8 weeks for one week. This makes about 6 weeks per year or 30 days of paid annual leave. Definitely, not every business can afford this.

Over time, it became necessary to add additional rules: two colleagues working on the same thing should not take consecutive weeks off. There should be at least one week where they overlap, so work can be handed over. Another adjustment they had to make was to allow flexibility, and to be able to take a vacation with +/- 1 week shift from the planned schedule.

In Bulgaria, in 2014, it was normatively established to plan vacations. That is, from planned, periodic, and mandatory, one of the components was covered. But the idea of the legislator was not for the workers to be more rested, but to avoid accumulating unused days of paid annual leave. And since there was no penalty for not following the schedule of planned vacations, people and organizations made the schedules pro forma, and only HR departments were burdened with additional paperwork.


Stefan Sagmeister's example is difficult to apply to dynamic businesses with many operations and clients. However, the experience of SimpliFlying, even as a small company, can be applied to much larger organizations. The days when the HR function determines at an organizational level how vacations are taken are numbered. This is because the recovery needs of colleagues in production and those in marketing are completely different. Therefore, policies should be determined at a functional level - within some general rules and a sense of fairness.

If you wish to do something good both for the organization and for the people, to simplify the leave of absence request process, to minimize the expenses, and to better coordinate your teams, then TIMEOFF.GURU is created exactly for that reason.

Show the solution to your colleagues and see for yourself how convenient and easy everything becomes with TIMEOFF.GURU. With just a few clicks, you have a request, approval, report, and a view of the overall absence calendar. Without unnecessary bureaucracy, without piles of paper, without hours of processing.