Time to change holiday meaning?

Luca Bianchi, PhD
Sep 6 · 5 min read
A vacation could be more than just a pause from everyday work. It could lead to productivity nirvana [Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash]

During the last decade, the concept of work itself changed a lot. Many jobs are now focused more on responsibility and passion that about the mere number of hours provided to a given company.

Whenever you’re an entrepreneur, a skilled manager or a freelance, your attitude about job changed a lot in the last few years, making difficult to relate our concept to what we consider the “generation before us.”

This statement is not true for everyone: many jobs remain hours-related. In these situations, your outcome (and payroll) is strictly proportional to the number of hours you provide to your company. More hours → more work is done → more money.

No one is going to deny the existence of the “old hard work.” I am pointing out is that besides this concept of work, new kinds came out, due to recent explosion and inflation in the economy. In many fields, the need to always be up-to-date with the latest information or learn something new is an everyday task. Learning, as the highest expression of the Lean movement, became a fundamental part of many daily jobs both in startups and scale-ups.

Passion now plays a fundamental role in our business, which means flexible working hours, remote working, no need for badges are just a few of many disruptive changes this new perspective brought to us in recent years.

Badges are needed to provide corporate minds a (false) sense of control or security purposes, but are irrelevant to measure employee productivity

Here we could start with that consideration is that holiday is not perceived in the same manner across the globe. In Italy and a few other countries is the moment in a year when “I drop everything work-related and run out from the bad office.” This misconception is probably related to some troubles we have with the authority recognition and entrepreneurship that led us considering our job what we do to gain money and survive.

The holiday should not mean getting-away from work, but spending quality time with family while widening our horizons

The idea of work has changed, and we’re not fighting against managers, but should be collaborating with them into building something. Probably also the idea of a holiday should change as well. We used to live in the “vacation compression” world, where all days that a company gives to an employee should (and usually must) be used. It’s a measure that was intended not to give up a fundamental right. It also took us to the “August shutdown mechanism” that produces more harm than good to both the economy and our lives. Dropping your job for one month makes sense only if you hate what you do. In any other case results in a waste of time and possibilities. Moreover, ignoring your loved ones for months just to pack everything overnight and squeeze with them in someplace for three weeks is something pretty insane.

You should spend quality time with your loved ones through the year whenever you need topping up energies.

Do not judge yet, just stick with me for a few minutes more, and I’m going to explain this strong assumption.

Compressing holidays into four weeks means only a few of these days are going to be really outstanding. A holiday is often related to the concept of relaxing, and that’s true. But full mind and body recovery from stress and everyday routine, except pathological situations, occurs within a couple of days off and is a recurring need through the year. Recent studies tend to prove that the need for stress-free moments are as frequent as more responsibility (or mission-critical) your job is. Physics teaches us that more pressure you experiment, sooner you need to relief from that. And that is true for people too. We should not stop going on holiday, we should stop doing it bad.

Holiday compression within one month brings eleven moons of frustration and waiting, thus increasing stress levels. Better going for smaller holidays through the year.

Moreover, the time we spend on holiday should e spent more wisely throughout the year (thus reducing the summer period to 1–2 weeks only), alternating relaxing-breaks with knowledge-breaks.

What does “knowledge-break” mean? Basically, a knowledge break is some sort of holiday where you visit something or learn something new. It is not a sharp concept but more blended going from work-related interruptions (at Neosperience we adopted the FedEx-Days technique) to more cultural-related (such as city sightseeing). All these moments concur to open our mind towards upcoming challenges. It is proven that traveling to see foreign countries expands our perspective, and this has a benefit on the way we work.

U.S. and U.K. are among the first countries to start exploiting such innovative behaviors with high returns. We’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg of what could be done whenever we’ll embrace this change.

Companies too should consider this change in holiday misconception and the tremendous benefits it could take to businesses. This means refraining from “August shutdown” and encouraging such kind of breaks, maybe backing some of them. We could also relieve people from the shame of “you’re working when everyone is on holiday!” that belongs to our Italian culture. If you have a great project to work on or something new and amazing to learn, you should drop your holiday (in a way that should not disappoint your loved ones) and jump back to that, for you and your company sake.

Companies should support flexible holidays.

Your company should support that with flexible repayment of holiday hours used for learning: maybe providing support whenever this free time produces business-interesting outcomes. Money repayment should be avoided because it leads to Karōshi, but we could experiment with some other forms of restitution, such as break-retribution. In this new model whenever a knowledge-break brings some new proven ideas to company business, you will be rewarded with a paid relaxing-break.

Is this too far in the future? I don’t believe so: many freelances and passionate manager are already doing this. It’s happening even without receiving any of the benefits that would come from a structured, company-wide adoption of this new way of thinking.

Change is just around the corner and brings to us the capability to push our limits, as companies and workers, to a higher level.

Have a wise holiday!


My name is Luca Bianchi. I am Chief Technology Officer at Neosperience and the author of Serverless Design Patterns and Best Practices. I have built software architectures for production workload at scale in AWS for nearly a decade.

Neosperience Cloud is the one-stop SaaS solution for brands aiming to bring Empathy in Technology, leveraging innovation in machine learning to provide support for 1:1 customer experiences.

You can contact me via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Luca Bianchi, PhD

Written by

Chief Technology Officer at Neosperience. Loves speaking about Serverless, ML, and Blockchain. ServerlessDays Milano co-organizer. Opinions are my own.

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