As a medical expert, Dr. Geeta Nayyar is well aware that overwork can lead to physical and psychological stress. But as Salesforce’s Chief Healthcare Officer, she also oversees health and safety guidance for 77,000 employees and their global clients at a technology company in the midst of a pandemic.
“Healthcare is a 10-year issue for all CEOs,” Nayyar told CNBC MakeIt. As a result, executives need to consider how learning to take leave and relieve stress is a priority in health care conversations.
It’s that she’s still learning to do herself. Taking a vacation “frankly, I’m not really good at it,” says 44-year-old Nayyar. “I went to medical school for training and fellowships. After that, I got an MBA. I went to school non-stop until my thirties.”
Salesforce offers an unlimited number of PTOs to the vast majority of employees. Here, Nayyar shares her best PTO advice, including how to set boundaries for work emergencies.
How her medical background made it difficult to take a break: The medicine is very agitated and burns. There is a feeling of selflessness, which is all about the patient. I’m a rheumatologist, but we don’t have many. So you have this feeling that you have to work that extra time or take that extra shift.
Through a pandemic, I relearned that when you rest well, you are more productive than when you work 24/7. My approach has evolved in my career and as the mother of my 10-year-old daughter. I’m really working hard to model how to unplug the device and take a break for my daughter and team.
Her absence message: I write, including my return date, “If this is an emergency (that is, if someone is bleeding or has chest pain), call me on your mobile phone.”
Its absence means to make a joke. And if it’s not true emergency care, it’s a good idea to say, “If you can call someone else on your team, I recommend doing so.”
About setting boundaries with her team — and vice versa: In the early days of the pandemic, I always felt that I had to work on everything. I responded to things while I was out and my team told me, “It’s not an emergency. We have it.” It helped me.
Then likewise I was asked for something while I was away and could say, “I think you have it. You don’t need me. I’ll talk to you next week.” There is a way to be gentle.
Why she plans a collective PTO with the team each year: annual Dream Force Conference This is a good example. Everyone is working hard on it. There is an understanding that I will not talk to anyone the next week. Everyone is depressurizing, including taking a break. It’s great to plan a big project with your team and take a collective vacation.
What she talks about taking a vacation to her 25-year-old: It is important to rest every day. Well, if you’re waiting for a vacation three months from now, it’s a long time.
The vacation does not have to be a luxurious and expensive vacation. The device may turn off after business hours. The vacation may be between lunch and the next meeting. Holidays can be dinner time with the family. Whether it’s a two-minute meditation or a stretch, a small exercise throughout the day can be very helpful. Take that time yourself.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.