Early in my career, I was an Army officer. Having also been an Army brat growing up, one thing I remember with fondness was when we PCSed (had a permanent change of station…in other words, MOVED). In the Army, every couple of years like clockwork, you end up rotating to a new post and a new job. In between that move (that PCS) is an extended time of off-boarding, travel, and on-boarding. Essentially, the military had a built-in period of disconnection and rest – a time to truly “refit” and prepare for the next adventure.
Later in my career, I had a short stint at a manufacturing company, and if you know anything about manufacturing, there can be some seasonality to the work – and within specific departments, times when it’s virtually dead. For us, this was the time between Christmas and New Year’s – when it was actually abnormal to be in the office. EVERYONE was home; everyone was off from work.
Fast forward a couple of years and I am frantically building Access Ventures, a new company I had started with a small, but growing team. I cared deeply about building something for the long-term and thought a lot about personal and corporate rhythms. I did all the research on healthy work rhythms, how to think about PTO, etc. Yet when I looked at all of the PTO policies and best practices, something about the PCS or the seasonality of my manufacturing experience resonated with me that I didn’t see present in traditional PTO – and that was the ability to completely disconnect.
You see, when PCS’ing, you leave everything behind. When you do finally come back to work, it’s with the same employer but with a completely different team, in a completely different geography, at a completely different unit, and with completely different expectations. It’s as if everything starts fresh. And then when I looked again at my experience in manufacturing, the seasonal rhythm’s and department norm created a similar effect – everything stopped and everyone was out of the office. And when they returned, it was as if everything was new and fresh.
Vacation time is precious and a must within any job, but a major difference between vacation time and these experiences, is the metaphorical train that keeps racing down the track while you step off just for a momentary rest. The blessing is you get to disconnect; the curse is that you have to return with the inbox and demands of work only compounding while you were away. In fact, it’s not unusual on a vacation to take a day or two to decompress from work before fully enjoying the time away—only to be mentally onboarding back on a couple of days before vacation is really over…just to be ready for what lies ahead.
So when I was looking to build rhythms at Access Ventures, I wanted to build a culture and a workflow that also allowed for what I had benefited from during a PCS or the seasonality of manufacturing. I ended up instituting a cycle of “corporate rest”—recognizing that every company has rhythms and it is important to understand them. For us, that meant we close the offices the week of Christmas to New Year’s and the week of the 4th of July each year. We don’t consider it vacation or require that people use vacation; otherwise, you will have those rare few that still want to come in and bank those days. Instead, it’s 100% off and 100% disconnection…barring any emergencies. There is no email, no slack, and no work to be done. We have done this now for 8 years and it is by far, one of the most treasured benefits on the team. And because we saw these as normal rhythms within our work, we have not missed out on productivity (if anything, it’s been boosted).
My encouragement…figure out your company’s rhythms. Figure out what might work in your context and I guarantee, you (and your team members) will not regret building in corporate rest.