A new concept on the labour market – surprise days off for employees

Diana Nădejde

8 minutes read

The global economy has been heavily tested during 2020 and has been changing ever since. However, with time, remote working became well suited to the lifestyle of many of us.

A new trend on the labour market has been recently gaining popularity and that is the so called “surprise day off”, by which the companies hope to build a more flexible and also friendlier relationship with the employees. This “gift” is meant to reward employees for the high amount of work they are doing and for the changes imposed on them during the past year due to the pandemic.

What is the new trend all about?

More and more companies around the world are offering a spontaneous day off. By doing this the companies want to emphasize the fact that they take into consideration the comfort and, most of all, the health of their employees. However, no matter how wonderful this may sound, it might not be that helpful. In other words, a day or even a week away from work might not be enough. Days off do not magically reduce stress and do not instantly solve the problems that get one overwhelmed at their job.

What is effective about this measure is the element of surprise because, normally, the company doesn’t have to offer more days off than required by the law. By offering them however, the management shows they care. When people notice these spontaneous gestures, they start believing that the company cares about their needs, even without communicating them directly to the management. These gestures could build a long-term healthy employee-employer relationship, which would at least maintain the well being of the employees.

However days off are not helpful to everybody in the same way. People are different, not all the employees love surprises, for certain reasons too. For example parents can get more stressed as they cannot plan a day off on such a short notice. This measure would rather suit single employees who have a ….more casual lifestyle.

USA leads the way

As it is with other modern trends, the initiators of this measure are again the Americans. It all started with the leaders of a company in Georgia conducting employee surveys on how the management could improve their well-being. After they analysed the answers, they offered two additional days off to the entire staff, on two separate Fridays, one in April and the other in July.

The model was later copied by other businesses too. Just this year LinkedIn surprised its employees by offering them a paid week off, April 5-12, trying in this way to minimize the risk of employee burnout. Approximately 15.900 employees received the perk.

“People were working longer hours, not taking their vacation time and just churning through. We had a successful, productive organisation, but we knew our employees were being burnt out.” said Lisa Finnegan, HR Vice President at LinkedIn.

Even the tech giant Google offered their employees two unexpected vacations. Moreover, in November 2020, the CEO of the cash-back app Dosh agreed to offer his employees “long weekends”.

Burnout – the motto of the 21st century

The “burnout” phenomenon, or overworking the employees, has become a frequent problem of the “modern work age”. Too many tasks to do in a very short time, longer working hours, emails to read, WhatsApp messages to check, brainstorming for whatever meeting, remote work during the weekend, all of these are unfortunately well known to the “21st century employee”.

According to a study made by CareerBuilder, around 60% of the people surveyed said they felt burned out at their job, while a quarter reported high levels of stress at work. Therefore the HR is constantly preoccupied by the “burnout” phenomenon and the managers are thinking of ways to protect their employees by always looking for solutions adapted to social changes.

Many studies clearly reflect the idea that if you get away from work, even for a short period, you improve your ability to handle stress at work. What’s more, when you plan your free time correctly, in other words, when you manage to forget all your troubles, you can engage your creative side which can lead to an increase in productivity.

On the other side, the employees have to watch for drawbacks and not let themselves pressured by more overwork just to receive paid days off.

Do you think Romanian companies will also reward their employees with surprise days off in the future?

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Written by Diana Nădejde


Originally a legal consultant, but more of a communication person, passionate about writing, digitalization, social media, history and philosophy. At the same time, I don’t think there is a problem that can’t be solved with a good book or a series.

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