President Joe Biden has a rule for his staff members: If you don’t take time off to tend to your personal life, you might get fired.
Biden delved into the rule — which he developed as a U.S. senator — on a recent episode of life coach and former monk Jay Shetty’s “On Purpose” podcast. It started with one particular staffer, whose knowledge of an upcoming Supreme Court hearing was “invaluable, because he’s the guy who knew all the details,” Biden said.
Upon learning that the staffer “was having trouble at home,” Biden told him to skip the Supreme Court hearing. When the staffer insisted on staying, Biden put his foot down, he said.
“[I told him] go home… go home. And you know why? Because I would go home,” Biden explained. “I have a thousand bosses, but [ultimately] only one me … I know when I had a crisis at home raising the boys, I went home.”
Recalling another instance where he was made aware of an employee’s troubles at home, Biden said, “if you don’t go home, I’m gonna fire you. Go home. Your relationship is a hell of a lot more important than whatever you’re doing for me.”
He added: “So that’s a rule we have. Not a joke.”
Time off for personal health and wellbeing has increasingly become a non-negotiable for large swaths of today’s workforce. Eighty-one percent of U.S. workers say mental health support will be an important consideration during their future job searches, a 2022 report from the American Psychological Association found.
Years of experience and wisdom helped Biden see the importance of taking time off, he said. He’s not alone: Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, for example, was once a self-proclaimed workaholic. Gates would skip out on family time and vacations to be in the office, he told students at Northern Arizona University’s commencement ceremony in May.
It took becoming a dad for Gates to realize “there’s more to life than work,” he said, adding: “Take a break. Take it easy on the people around you when they need it, too.”
In response to the idea that some employees might take advantage of Biden’s open-ended invitation for time off, the president said he’s not scared.
“You never have to tell me why [you’re taking time off],” he said. “All you gotta say is, ‘I’m not gonna be in.’ If it turns out you’re playing games with me, I’ll learn. But I know you too well.”
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