Friday, August 26, 2005

Holidays – take one, get one free

Monday is a public holiday in Britain, not sure why but it is and I’m glad. We all need a break from time to time and the odd extra day off is well worth it.

Software development tends to be organized as projects with clear start and end dates – that’s not to say the end date doesn’t change but there is one. This is the thing about projects they do start and end, programmes on the other hand just go on and on. Many jobs are like that, they just go on and on, think of shop assistants or cleaners, these jobs just are.

But many modern jobs are organized as projects, you have one project, when that is done you do another, then another and so on. Its never a good time to take holiday, what every project your working on seems to be in danger of slipping.

Then when the project does finish – and quite often they finish late – you need a break. But timetabling your break when a project is near the end (or slipping) can be difficult.

And often when you do end the company aren’t ready to put you back into the trenches on another project. For one thing, they can’t start another project if the one before it is slipping, and do you want to divert people from one project to another before it starts?

So, for these reasons – and more – I’ve always thought it would be a good idea if companies encouraged people to take their holidays right after a project finishes. Of course companies try this but “encourage” often just means an e-mail saying “Please take your holiday...” why not put their money where their mouth is and offer you extra holiday?

Taking holiday after a project makes lots of sense: people get to unwind, they get to clear their mind of the last project, they get refreshed and ready to start again. For the company it means people start back fresh and they don’t have those days in between projects where they are coming into the office and trying to be busy.

Pick your ratio: take one get one free, or, one extra day for every three taken. This is real encouragement and presents a win-win.

But! - I hear you scream - The cost!

Well, companies carry the cost of holidays not taken on their books – its something they owe you, so your taking it actually improves profitability in the accounts.

Lost productivity? How productive are you really in the week after a major project finished? Usually not a lot, your going through the motions of coming into the office so the company won’t loose much.

And if you know you can get some extra holiday at the end maybe it will motivate you to meet the schedule. Maybe it will offset some of those late nights you pulled to get it done.

Now my question to you dear reader: does company you know actually do this? I love to hear of some examples.