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Taking time off at Weaviate

· 6 min read
Jessie de Groot

Good design is good business

As a remote-first company, Weaviate gives its people the flexibility to work when and where they choose. We give every employee lots of autonomy and trust they will work in a way that suits their situation and needs, while also fulfilling the requirements of their position and supporting other team members.

But there’s more to work/life balance than flexibility on the “work” side of that equation. I believe that taking time off to recharge and refresh one’s mind are essential. So yes, it follows that if any person is to do their best work, they must spend occasional blocks of time not working. That’s why we’ve developed a philosophy about taking time off, and actively encourage our people to use their time off.

However, just as individuals have unique workstyles, they also have unique needs as regards time off. That’s especially true for Weaviate; as we assemble an increasingly global team, we need to take different countries and cultures into account, as well as our company values and remote mindset.

Our time-off philosophy is based on two core ideas

The first is that we’re one team, and every team member needs to keep this in mind when taking time off. The second is that everyone on the team “owns” their job and their life. Each individual knows what’s best for them.

We’re one team. Everyone shares responsibility

In the best start-up fashion, we’re a tightly knit team working hard to make Weaviate successful.

“Work together as one” is one of our company’s stated values. Our group of awesome colleagues are all pulling together to help Weaviate, and the whole vector-search category take off. We all feel a shared responsibility for what we’re sure will be a shared success.

Since working together is part of our DNA, it should figure in all of our decision making - yes in our daily work and in pursuit of goals set at Weaviate, but also in decisions related to taking time off.

We all want to surpass expectations and do what’s best for our customers and our community. But everyone needs time to disconnect and recharge, and everyone deserves earned time off. We want every team member to have a satisfying work/life balance, whatever that might look like.

Sometimes, a healthy break may only involve being offline for an hour or two. For example, I do an hour of sports every Friday morning - this helps me to maintain my mental health and be happy at work. Some of my colleagues get great satisfaction from dropping their kids off at school and picking them up again at the end of the school day. That’s perfectly fine with us! We trust that every colleague will get their work done. We think about longer breaks, from a few days to weeks, the same way.

Communication is required to put this degree of flexibility into practice. It’s important that each person coordinates and discusses time off with their team and that ultimately, decisions about time off are consistent with team objectives. That’s especially true during popular or official holidays, so that we can ensure business continuity.

Another aspect of shared responsibility is looking out for one another. If colleagues can see that someone is burning the candle at both ends, they should remind that person that they can take time off and encourage them to do so - even if he or she is pulling all-nighters out of sheer enthusiasm.

Everyone “owns” their own work and life

We feel this is true by definition. A one-size-fits-all vacation policy isn’t just dated, it’s inconsistent with our values and impossible to define in a company filled with unique individuals from diverse countries and cultural backgrounds, who are each doing unique work.

Again, using myself as an example, every three to four months, I need a break to recharge. Sometimes I need a bit more time, sometimes less. It’s not something you can put a number on; I can’t say that a specific number of days helps me recharge in order to deliver my best work and certainly can’t speak for my colleagues. In order to be mindful of that, our philosophy is to allow our people to choose the amount of time off they need. We also want people to choose when they take time off. We certainly want them to take mental-health days when they want them, not just when they need them!

This mindset of taking and managing your own time off doesn't come naturally to everyone. Indeed sometimes flexibility comes with its own challenges.

  • Figuring out how and when to take time off can be an additional cognitive load.
  • Since there is no specified time off limit, people may worry that they’re being judged unfavorably.
  • People might worry about burdening their colleagues for being away too long.

We believe the advantages more than offset the challenges. I see it as my job to help our people - including managers - to grow into this mindset. We want everyone to be comfortable taking time off. To this end, managers should include conversations about time off during their one-on-ones with their people. They should also model good behavior by taking all the time off they need, too!

We believe that trust breeds trustworthiness

Trust is an essential part of Weaviate's culture; it is especially important in a remote company. We trust that everyone will act in the best interests of Weaviate. That goes for taking time off, as well. We trust that each team member will know when and how much time they need to take off - and that each person will take their work, responsibilities, and colleagues into consideration when planning and taking holidays.

To summarize:

  • We believe that each person has their own energy level and lifestyle, and that it’s up to each person to determine how much time off they need and when they should take it.
  • Every team member must also consider their work, and their team’s responsibilities and goals when scheduling time off.
  • Coordination and communication are essential.

We trust that if everyone keeps these simple rules in mind, we’ll have happy & healthy people who are able to do their best work, and who will contribute to make Weaviate successful!