COVID-19 means that you're less likely to use your vacation time. But if you take time off, not only will you be less stressed — you'll also be more creative.
Superhuman is in the USA, but we take "European" vacations. Here's why…
American vs. European vacations
Americans and Europeans have wildly different vacation cultures. In the USA, there is no minimum state or federal paid vacation. Whereas in some European countries, employees can enjoy as many as 38 paid days off each year.
Not only do Americans get far less vacation, we are very reluctant to use it. In 2018, 768 million vacation days went unused, up 9% from the year before. Of these, 246 million were forfeited, adding up to $65.5 billion in lost benefits!
Note: many countries beyond Europe are also generous with vacations. See how your country measures up.
Vacations increase cognitive flexibility
We all know that vacations reduce stress. Just planning vacations makes you happy, thanks to anticipatory consumption.
But the real magic is amplifying your creativity.
Studies show that vacations increase cognitive flexibility — they help you combine more raw ideas. When you have time to indulge your hobbies — mountain biking, cross-stitch, video games — your brain can combine ideas in ways you least expect.
What's behind this effect? It turns out that creativity has 3 key ingredients: a relaxed state of mind, freedom from distractions, and an influx of dopamine — all of which we get on vacation.
How we vacation at Superhuman
Like many technology companies, Superhuman has an "as much as you like" vacation policy. But unlike many technology companies, we're serious about folks using it.
We encourage vacations in 3 ways:
1. Enshrining our principles
Vacation principles, like any other, must be easy to understand and easy to locate. We enshrine ours in Notion, and heavily reference them from elsewhere.
2. Oversharing vacation plans
The biggest fear teammates have about vacation is leaving colleagues high and dry. We mitigate this by sharing early and often. This reduces anxiety, allows for better planning, and — as a bonus — sparks great conversations about the vacations themselves!
3. Leading by example
I take a week of vacation every quarter, during which I disconnect completely. Not only does this encourage the behavior, it also steels the company to become more resilient.