It’s Christmas Eve and people are diligently working on tasks they’ve put off or getting themselves organized for the coming year. Nothing too intense mind you, but work that must be done. There’s a bit more cheer in the air on Christmas Eve. A bit more socializing. More fudge. And as much as people want to whittle down their “to do” list they also want to leave the office early to enjoy the holiday and indulge in some much needed downtime.

I think downtime is important. Very important. So do Debbie Imboden, Scott Belsky, and Austin Business Journal to name a few others who believe the same. Downtime is so important that I plan to leave early myself.

Before I leave the office one crucial task remains. No, not yearly reviews, approving time cards, or reviewing product plans. It’s the “go home early” email. Before I say anything else, I understand the notion of the “go home early” email. I understand that it’s often used as a carrot or reward. A kind gesture that management bestows on hard working teams. I understand why it exists, I just think it shouldn’t exist at all.

The “go home early” email, while a very nice gesture, fails in one very fundamental way. It assumes people can’t manage their own time.

Why I dislike the “go home early email”
The “go home early” email, while a very nice gesture, fails in one very fundamental way. It assumes people can’t manage their own time. We trust people to work on difficult projects, deal with difficult customers, and deliver under less than ideal circumstances. We trust our teams judgement when they decide to work a few extra hours to deliver on a mission critical project. We trust their judgement then. But not on Christmas Eve when they decided to skip out of work a few hours early?

“Go home early” for early risers isn’t much of a treat
A second reason – a very distant second – that I dislike the “go home early” email is that it’s often sent around 2-3pm. For those who arrive at 7am this isn’t much of a treat.

It’s not used consistently
Sometimes it gets sent and sometimes it doesn’t. If the right management happens to be in the office you’re in luck! If they’re out enjoying a long weekend then it’s a long workday for you.

What’s better than the “go home early” email?
The only thing better than the “go home early” is an email letting people know that their time is theirs to manage. Thank them for the hard work over the past year. Encourage them to take time to reflect and prepare for the new year.

You see, if I can’t trust people to manage their own time then I have other problems. Bigger problems. If you’re in a position to send the “go home early” email then think twice about the message you’d like to send. Is it one of benevolent management extending a gift or a message of trust?