“U Days” Make a Difference for Spinutech Team Members
Published by Spinutech on April 14, 2022
The distance between Durham, North Carolina, and Cedar Falls, Iowa, is 1,052 miles. For two years, Sarah Mueller, a Sr. Content Strategist at Spinutech, felt every mile. Her brother had moved to Durham in January 2020, months before COVID-19 would change life as we knew it.
For many, COVID has made travel more fraught than ever before. Comfort levels vary from one person to the next, and spikes in COVID cases have often coincided with the holidays, when families could typically expect to gather together. Sarah and her family wouldn’t make the trek out to see her brother until January 2022. They spent a long weekend in Durham, with her sister’s family and her mother even joining them to make the trip a reunion of sorts.
“I felt reconnected with my family,” Sarah says, looking back on the visit.
When she returned to work the Wednesday after her trip, her PTO was unchanged. After Spinutech had introduced the concept of “U Days” — three additional days of paid time off to be used consecutively in the first quarter of 2022 — Sarah saw an opportunity, feeling comfortable enough to travel and without having to worry about preserving PTO for later in the year.
Sarah’s long-awaited trip to Durham to see her brother is but one example of how “U Days” made an impact on Spinutech team members through the first three months of the year.
Addressing an Epidemic of Employee Burnout
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the working world in ways both positive and negative. It led to the normalization of remote work, which companies like Spinutech have embraced. More flexible working arrangements means recruiters are no longer limited to a geographic location, creating more opportunities for job seekers across the country and even around the world.
But with more people working from home, blurring the line between our personal and professional lives can have unintended consequences. Less than a year into the pandemic, a poll reported on by AP News found that about 70% of respondents felt mixing work and other responsibilities had become a source of stress. The New York Times also wrote about a study that found 34% of respondents feeling burned out (up from 27% the previous year), 22% feeling depressed (up from 17%), and 37% feeling stressed (up from 34%).
It was clear that the pandemic had spawned an epidemic of a different sort: Burnout.
And leadership at Spinutech knew something needed to be done about it.
Introducing Spinutech’s “U Days”
First announced to the company in December of 2021, Spinutech’s “U Days” were intended to encourage team members to take time away from work. Every team member was provided an additional three (3) days of PTO to be used in the first quarter of 2022. The only other requirement was that the days be used consecutively, so that each team member could actually disconnect from work for an extended period and feel recharged and refreshed afterward.
Recognizing that team members tend to be intentional with their allocated PTO -- from planning vacations to keeping a couple days worth of PTO in reserve for a rainy day -- leadership wanted to remove any hesitation team members might have about taking time off work.
“We wanted to be sure that team members were taking time for themselves,” says Kim Davidson, VP of Team Member Support. “That time away from work is so important. ‘U Days’ were an additional opportunity for them to take personal time and spend it in a way that matters to them.”
The most rewarding part was seeing how each team member spent their “U Days.”
“U Days” Filled with Family, Friends, and Fun
Not everyone used them to travel far from home. Quite the opposite for Christine Sedlacek, a Sr. Project Manager and Team Lead. She took the opportunity to spend time with her son while he was home from college on spring break, including a mother-son day in the city of Chicago. Her son is an architecture student and served as her personal architectural history docent as they walked the city streets and explored several notable architectural sites.
“These extra days gave me the opportunity to truly enjoy what would otherwise have been an ordinary day and an opportunity lost,” Christine says. “Instead it was a precious memory-making day with my son.”
Kurt Marks, a Sr. Paid Media Strategist, decided to use his “U Days” to reacquaint himself with one of his favorite pastimes: Fishing. He retreated to the Florida Everglades, where he was able to disconnect from his devices and spend time surrounded by nature and wildlife.
Frani McDermott, a Talent Coordinator, was able to reconnect with a group of friends on a visit to Austin, Texas, where they had the opportunity to explore the city, go paddle boarding, try new coffee shops, and enjoy fantastic food and drinks.
There are plenty more “U Day” stories like Sarah’s, Christine’s, Kurt’s, and Frani‘s — and you can read them for yourself here — but if you take one thing from this, let it be the importance of taking time for yourself. The work can wait. Your personal and mental health needs can’t.