Sunday, March 06, 2011

Public Holidays and Annual Leave

When I worked as an employee of a company, nothing was better than annual leave. One year while working at Tandem, I took four weeks holiday and went off on a journey up the east coast of Oz with Tori. On returning to work I submitted my annual leave form as required, but on checking my next monthly payslip, I could see that the four weeks hadn't been deducted. A new payroll system had been transitioned in and it said that I still had four weeks available. It felt like I had won the lottery, a much better result for me than if they had overpaid me an extra month's salary. I would rather have the time than the money any day. I was good friends with the people in the accounts department so I kept it quiet to ensure that nobody up there would get into any trouble, as well of course to try and somehow keep my glorious windfall. I took the extra days leave through the course of the year in dribs and drabs. A week here and a week there. When Jane, who did the Tandem payroll and was responsible for docking everybodies annual leave, was departing the company a couple of years later, we all went to have a farewell lunch at the local Mexican restaurant. Over a couple of margaritas I thought I should come clean and thanked Jane for her oversight. "Oh I knew all about that", she told me chirpily. It seems she'd decided to give me an extra four weeks holiday just because she could. I thanked her effusively and kissed her affectionately on the cheek. Ah, to have friends in important places!

Since I've had my own business, it's been much more difficult to take holidays. The expectation is that when you work for yourself you can take time off whenever you want. That sounds great in theory, but it is not quite that simple. My company cannot afford to stop functioning while I'm away. There are customers, suppliers and partners who I deal with on a regular basis, across a number of different countries. Balancing their business needs with my own personal needs for time off has been tricky. Somehow they seem to have won. Last year I had no real vacation time at all. A couple of days here and there, but no decent period of time. Not even one week. We didn't go away anywhere as a family, as Tori continually reminded me throughout the year. And even when in previous years we have been on holiday, it's been almost impossible for me not to check the work emails just to make sure that nothing important has come through. Even the holidays themselves have struggled to be complete holidays with my mind being hijacked by work even if my body has been temporarily relocated.

I've always thought that to completely erase work from your mind on holiday, you need three weeks. The first week is spent winding down from what you have left behind. It's only in the second week that you have truly left that world and are totally immersed in the new surrounds. But if you only have two weeks in total, that second week is spent partly thinking that it's almost over and soon you have to go back. Hence the necessity for the third week. In Australia, it's a statutory requirement that every worker is entitled to four weeks annual leave, plus public holidays. So how did I let it get to this stage that work has so much invaded my being that I can't take a proper holiday? It's time now to put things right. As with any employee, my annual leave must be cumulative. Any holiday time not taken from the previous year rolls around to the next year. This is how it works for my employee. And so it shall be for the senior management of the company also (aka me). My company owes me four weeks annual leave from last year and also four weeks for this year. As well as all the public holidays of course. I intend to make the most of them. To wrestle back my personal time and space from the corporate world.

Because I'm off travelling now in some exotic and beautiful locations, I'm guessing that despite my continued protestation, there is some perception  that I am really on an extended holiday anyway. That every day is just a matter of thinking how I'll choose to spend my days in paradise. That would be nice and I wish that I was in a financial position to be doing that. But if I'm going to be wishing, I'd go the whole way and wish that I was in a financial position where work was not required at all and I could basically just swan around the world with my family doing as I pleased on a permanent basis. Instead, on a beautiful sunny 31 degree day on Friday, rather than going down to Greens Pool and splashing around the large rocks in the bay with Tori and the kids, I was sitting at a laptop for the entire day doing work. No different to anybody else sitting at their office, just with different scenery. And like all of those people, the thought of a long weekend with a public holiday Monday gave me a feeling of joy and anticipation. Three days without work. Hooray! But doesn't it always seem the way that the weather is glorious through the working week and just when you have time off it starts pissing down.

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