Maybe I read too much into it, but he seems to be snubbing people who take vacation. I'm glad not vacationing works for him, and it's his life to live, but that's not for everybody. I wouldn't write an article snubbing people who work all the time, and I don't see why he needs to snub people who take vacation.
Second, he seems incredibly proud to be working all the time. A good portion of the article is basically, "Hey, check me out! I'm working all the time! How cool am I?". Get over it.
Third, the author has a hugely exaggerated sense of self-importance. Reading the article, you'd think he's curing cancer and AIDs and cleaning up the environment all at once. Take this, for example: "But startups are different. Startups are a mission; a belief that something impossible is actually possible. It’s being part of a team that is working toward some distant horizon. It’s this competing against the impossible that makes it so much fun."
And what is the distant horizon he's working toward? From the 42 Floors home page, it's "The best place to find office space." That's the impossible he's making possible? That's why he's working 100% of the time? What a joke.
Telling a workaholic at a startup, "you can take as much vacation as you want" is really telling them, "take as little vacation as you need." A vacation for a workaholic is like a pitstop for a racecar driver.
But if you give people a set number of vacation days per month or year, and refuse to roll them over, aka "use it or lose it" policy, then you will see them start taking vacation. (This part is my observation, not the OP's)
I would say that, for getting true workaholics to take time off, even that's too lax. Enforced paid leave for all employees might be a better solution. For that matter, if it won't kill the company, try closing the office for a month each year. :)
I seem to remember hearing this policy goes all the way down to bank tellers.
It's important to have passion, and to believe in your product. Your product doesn't need to feed the poor or clothe the needy for you to be passionate about it, but my word there is nothing revolutionary about commercial real estate (to use 42Floors as an (unfair?) example).
But that doesn’t mean startup people don’t need vacations – we clearly do. If for no other reason than our best ideas come when we’ve been able to disengage from the problem in front of us. Vacations are a change of scenery. They’re a chance for perspective. They’re quality time with our friends, family and significant others. They’re a chance to see the world, to waste away the day reading books, playing chess, trying new things. Vacations are 100% essential.
I respect all your prior annoyances, and don't care to comment on them, but this one pissed me off. 42Floors seems to be doing a fucking awesome job in helping startups, even well established companies, find office space. Pissing on their efforts by making some snide remark ('what a joke') is completely uncalled for. Finding office space IS a huge problem for companies, especially startups who don't have much money but still need some space...42Floors is making that process (which I'm sure can sometimes be seemingly impossible) far simpler by providing the service that they are.
But the author seems to be putting it right up there with fighting for civil rights or vaccinating children or helping the poor. And that's taking it too far.
It's good to be motivated and passionate about work, but it's also good to have perspective.
But you're right in that I do talk about startups as a mission. And that's because a startup's default result is failing. It takes extraordinary efforts to avoid that default result and very, very few ever make it.
For what it's worth, I worked for 5 years running a non-profit as well. Loved that job too. I don't find passionate work to be limited to either startups or non-profits.
I would argue the opposite: if everyone took a global perspective on everything, nobody would ever do anything except work to extend the human lifespan. For humanity to be worth anything, it needs to strive for "useless" goals--art, humor, making money, etc. And to be motivated to strive for these goals, you need to think what you're doing is the most important thing you could be doing--even if, in a global sense, it's not.
This guy does not get what vacations are about. I know what it feels like to work hard with people you like at a job you enjoy, but I also know what it's like to kill two weeks lounging around southern Europe and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea every day. Both things are good but they are not the same thing. If you think satisfying work is a substitute for a good vacation you are doing it wrong.
One of the most balanced (and productive) teams I've worked on was under a general manager who had 8 kids and made it a point to attend _every_ event they had and go on regular vacations. Since everybody ran into his policy at some point (reviews scheduled at 5pm canceled or him out of town for a week or two), the whole org was pretty good about doing the same. And it was very different from other orgs in the company, many of which had the usual long hours + weekends culture.
The rest of us have to be encouraged to take our vacation days.
There's a culture of everyone taking days off on a regular basis without too much formality ("won't be in this friday, see ya"), but long vacations are rare.
Sometimes, particularly with young people (no family and no college buddies around), I had trouble getting them to take vacations because frankly they just had nobody to hang out with for a long period of time. You can only sit at home (or on the beach) and play WoW for so long, so it didn't really bother me much when they didn't, as long as they were taking enough random days off to stay fresh and motivated at work.
Edit: And to be clear, I think this has been and will continue to be detrimental to my work product overall, the only reason I haven't taken a break yet is being I'm triple-hatted for now until July or so. By then I'll have a chance to think about what I want to do with my break, I hope.
Just take a break. Go somewhere that doesn't have cell phone coverage. (Alternatively, just turn it off when you get on the plane and leave it off until you get off the plane coming back.) Don't pay for internet. I did that a few months ago on my trip to Italy. Best. Vacation. Ever.
IMO every cost should have a potential positive return. Work = paycheck. More work = vacation, unless more work = windfall.
Personally I don't really ever feel the need for a vacation more than one day every few months, but that's just me now in a particular time and place. I think that'll change as the demands on my life change.
You may not think you need a vacation, but others may feel your work is getting sloppier and you're more easily irritated. Most human beings are usually the last to notice these things about themselves.
Where I work I have 30 days paid vacation (in adition to big holidays). If I don't use them, I get to push 5-10 of the unused days to the next year (and can save them for up to five years, after which I get their worth in salary; I guess about $150-200 per day).
Currently I have ~20 days saved, so theoretically I could take 50 days vacation this year (work permitting).
This system sets both a lower and upper limit to how much vacation is expected. Much fairer for the employee - no more guessing when it becomes too much vacation.
I'm guessing most employers in USA would consider 30 days to be too many?
And yes, even though I don't work for a startup I still consider my team mates my friends.
I can't get anything done at the office because nobody else is there. Sure I can work on things and enjoy peace but without graphic artists or designers there I can only go so far, I'll end up throwing stuff out because it's not what they wanted.
But if I stay home, I'm stuck doing holiday stuff or running around to the homes of friends and family. When I get back to work after New Years I need a vacation.
There is less of a pronounced absence at the end of the year for my company because hours roll over and the cap is somewhere around 2.5 years of time.
My first jobs were "in my spare time", and instead of taking a vacation from school to go party in Cancun for Spring Break (spend time AND money), I'd work. Mostly to pay for more school OR for that sweet computer I wanted.
Since having a "real job", my brain still considers vacation as "time I'm not earning money", even though it's Paid Time Off. Even when I do manage to trick myself into vacation, they're usually "active" trips, where I feel like every minute needs to be spent doing something "productive" like snorkeling or feeding sharks. You won't find me laying out on the beach anywhere!
The ironic thing is that I work in the travel industry and I know how important this stuff is! I think our problem is that we want to create value with our limited time on this planet, so maybe we need to consider it to be an investment that will pay us back in inspiration later down the road.
"At 42floors, we heavily, heavily recommend that all new people take two weeks of vacation starting exactly on their first official day. What this means is that when you get a job offer from us, you’ll pick a start date. And that’s the day we start your payroll. And that’s the day you leave for vacation.
And you get to take that time to transition from one chapter of your life to the next. If your startup just failed or you hated your last job, you get a couple weeks of mental and physical recovery. If you have a significant other that’s been dying to get away with you, you can go away someplace nice knowing that your first paycheck will be waiting for you when you return."
The precation concept is interesting.
One of the best trips I had was after getting laid off from a large dysfunctional corporation that was under going a re-org and having few years of accumulated salary in the bank due to never having a chance to take a "real" break from work in several years.
HR was shocked when they realized that I hadn't taken more than few days off in my tenure. I had over 6 months of "combined" time that had rolled over year after year.
But I was the chump that got things done, covered during the holidays, for installs, moves, covered Y2K, and when everyone else had a life and babies.
It's not that I don't like going places or enjoying myself, but I hate being away and I hate not being involved and getting things done.
A good vacation for me is a day off to relax here and there, or a weekend away. Taking more than 3 days at a time always seems like too much and I end up wanting to get back. I still need to take that week long vacation every year for the enjoyment of my wife and kids, but it seems too long.
Most people here don't have a sense of holidaying. So they end up too bored that they turn back to work!
I think this is a holdover from the colonial era, when the British, before embarking on a fox hunt, expressed the view that the natives shouldn't be wasting their time holidaying.