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Why TED Makes All Employees Leave the Office Each Year

For a solid two weeks each year, TED employees aren't allowed in the office. Here's why the mandated vacation is a boon for productivity.

If you're a frequenter of, you've probably noticed that the site hasn't posted any new talks in a while. That's because the whole staff is off on mandated vacation until August. 

Before the team headed out of the office in mid-July, editor Emily McManus wrote a short post explaining why she and her coworkers are required to take a two-week vacation this time every year. 

The main idea, she writes, is that it's good for productivity all around. TED has been practicing this policy since 2009. Before that, when vacations were staggered, TED Executive Producer June Cohen said it was difficult to make progress on long-term projects. "You never have all the right people in the room," she explained. 

In addition to being good for the team's overall ability to get things done, employees benefit from a boost in personal productivity, too. That's because they return to the office refreshed after having truly disconnected from work.  

Almost no one is working from home or checking email regularly during this time since there's nothing to check. "If incoming email just stops, we can all rest without worrying about what we're missing back at the office," McManus wrote. 

Of course, it's important to consider the downside. McManus implies that this mandated two-week vacation leaves little flexibility to take time off at any other point during the year. However, TED produces annual conferences, and that means employees already know that they are signing up for a relatively rigid work schedule when they join the company. 

This particular vacation policy might not work for your company unless your calendar year has a similar kind of predicability to it. If you do choose to take the TED vacation approach, though, at least you can be sure of one thing: your employees will actually take time off.

This may not happen otherwise, especially at a fast-growing startup. And in order to continue to get the best out of employees, you might need to nudge them out of the office temporarily. 

As Cohen pointed out, "When you have a team of passionate, dedicated overachievers, you don't need to push them to work harder. You need to help them rest." 

Last updated: Jul 23, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.

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