At Our Company, Thanksgiving Isn’t an Office Holiday. Here’s Why.

In preparation for Thanksgiving, Reify Media team members who will be celebrating the holiday had to put an Out of Office Vacation Notice on their calendars. Our office calendar doesn’t mark Thanksgiving as a holiday — doesn’t recognize any holidays, actually — so each team member had to go in and specifically mark Thanksgiving as a day (or days) that they wouldn’t be available in the office.

And we do that on purpose.

At Reify, we don’t have a holiday calendar or policy. Instead, we have what’s called an open vacation policy. Basically, that means that our vacation policy is this: take vacation when you need it. (And we’re not alone there. Netflix and other major companies have a similar policyOpen vacation is on the rise.)

But it also means that team members are responsible for marking which days they’ll be unavailable. Even on Thanksgiving. Even on Christmas. Yes, even on New Year’s.

I started this policy at Reify in 2014, so before you call me Ebenezer, please let me explain.

Let’s imagine that you moved from where you are now to Hong Kong, for a perfect job. Let’s imagine you love everything about what you do. But let’s imagine that you wanted to come home to the US for your favorite holidays. Because of cultural differences, you might be taking time off when others weren’t, correct? And there might be holidays celebrated in Hong Kong that weren’t as connected to you, so you might choose to work during those times.

I share this example only because it helps to highlight how culturally ingrained most of our holidays are. The majority culture in our country celebrates holidays like Christmas and Easter, but we don’t often recognize China’s Spring Festival, or Eid al-Fitr, or Holi, or Passover.

But what if you don’t celebrate the same holidays that your office does, and you want to celebrate your holidays with your family? Then your “two weeks” becomes less about vacation and more about the traditional holiday time.

In other words, closing the office on traditional holidays is great for employees who align with those holidays; it’s a bit unfair to employees who don’t celebrate those holidays — the employees for whom every holiday has to be an out-of-office request.

Our solution? Give all the days off.

That’s what we mean by Open Vacation. Team members take time when they need it — for holidays, for vacations, for sick days, for re-charging, for whatever. We only have two stipulations: (1) team members have to mark the days off in their calendar, so we can see when they’re OOO, and (2) we check in quarterly about how much time off they’re taking. (Some studies show that teams with open vacation policies take LESS time off, so during quarterly performance reviews, one of the things we chat about is how we’re doing on time off. And I’m almost always encouraging people to take more.)

So — observing Yom Kippur? Gmar tov. Please remember to put it in your calendar. Celebrating Canada Day? Awesome. Just put it in your calendar, eh? Taking time off for Star Wars Day? May the force be with you. Put it in your calendar, you should. Spending Eid al-Fitr with family? Eid Mubarak! And please mark your calendar. Need a day to re-charge? Well deserved! Please mark that calendar first.

On traditional American holidays like Thanksgiving, that admittedly means that our team has to go through an extra step — ”taking” time off on a day when most people are given it. But for anyone who’s not part of the majority culture in our country — that’s already their reality.

So I’ve marked Thursday and Friday off on my calendar, and I’m looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with my family. And when I celebrate, our team will definitely be one of the things I remember to be thankful for.

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