Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

Surprise Days Off

While most Americans looked forward to annual summer breaks as children, the best most can hope for as adults is a week or 2 off for a family vacation or the occasional long weekend around a company holiday. But what if one’s company spontaneously offered surprise paid days off work? An extra 3-day weekend here and there isn’t quite the same as a 3-month-long summer break, but it’s nothing to shake a stick at!

The Big Benefit of the Unexpected

A growing number of companies have experimented with implementing surprise days off for their teams, as Kate Morgan writes in an article for BBC Worklife. “In April, LinkedIn shut down for a week, giving nearly all 16,000 of their global employees five days off,” Morgan writes. “Since last summer, Google has given workers two impromptu paid holidays. And back in November 2020, Ryan Wuerch, CEO of cash-back app Dosh, started granting employees impromptu long weekends.”

Many companies implemented their surprise holidays based at least in part on survey responses showing staffs have been feeling burnt out, stressed, and anxious in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While an extra day off here and there may seem like a relatively small gesture, Morgan writes the employee reaction has been generally positive.

Be Alert to Unintended Consequences

Still, there are potential unintended consequences of pop-up holiday policies. Staff “can’t necessarily put urgent work on hold, even when they’re permitted—or told—to step away,” says Morgan. “For example, jobs that require workers to create every day are tough to pause without advance planning; similarly, workers who have important client meetings or crucial pending sales may find a pop-up day off a novelty no-one wants or asked for. For others, work may simply pile up, and workers return to an anxiety-inducing mound to sift through.”

A surprise day away from the office might be just the thing to help stressed staff get some much-needed time away from the office. But such plans could also have unintended consequences if they end up leaving staff with long to-do lists and making them feel even more behind.

As a growing number of companies seem to be taking interest in pop-up holidays, it will be important for them to ensure they aren’t creating more stress than they are relieving. A key element of that calculation is likely the amount of advanced notice the staff is given.