Interfaith America will be offline next week, July 4-8. That means no programs, no projects, no one answering the phone that week. Here’s why:
Closing for a week is a meaningful way to actually slow down: Our team at Interfaith America has had one heck of a spring and summer. We’ve launched some amazing programs, and we’ve changed our name from IFYC to Interfaith America with an expanded mission and vision. Our leadership team decided giving our team time off would be a great way to thank your team for an insanely productive season. In general, I’m a big fan of PTO, and we give generous PTO because it’s important to us that staff are able to observe religious and secular holidays that are important to them.
But how could we give time off in a way that was meaningful and truly allow our team to slow down? The answer: close up shop for one week and give everyone the week off at the same time. Vacation is different when everyone has it at the same time: Giving everyone the week off at the same time combats work FOMO, which is basically a phenomenon when you take vacation but can’t help checking work email while you are away to see what you might be missing. Closing the entire shop for one week is a meaningful way that folks can really slow down and take time away to rest, to be with their families, to get house projects done, or just veg out on the newest season of Stranger Things (my personal favorite – “Dear Billy” is one of the best episodes of TV I’ve seen in a long time). Shutting down for one week is not unique to us – more and more organizations are finding value in closing their doors for a week (like Hootsuite and the Nap Ministry), and there’s even a call for a nationwide one week vacation.
Closing the office aligns with religious and secular values: As a committed Christian, I see prioritizing rest as a value sacred to me in my faith. In the Bible, Matthew 11:28 says “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This is an invitation to come from a place of honesty – to come as I am – and to receive rest, safety, and hope in God. Other worldviews also emphasize the importance of rest. My Muslim colleague Nadia Salam reminds me that the work life balance has a great significance in Islam. “Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – said, ‘Allow the heart to rest at intervals’ – I feel blessed to work with an organization that emphasizes work-life balance.” My Jewish colleague Rachel grew up observing the Sabbath with special meals and synagogue services, but in college she learned about “the magic of disconnecting. Once a week, I would go on a social media break for 25 hours. It became important for me to have time to be present with friends, without the dings of emails or comments, to create my own space for creativity without interruption.”
Taking time to rest is important for my non-religious colleagues as well. Connie Meyer, who identifies as secular, shares the importance of breath in rest: “When I think about rest, I think about breathing. If all we do is exhale, we end up exhausted and depleted. When we take time to rest, and to inhale – ideally deeply – we replenish ourselves.” Even if you don’t work at an interfaith organization, giving staff time off has huge benefits for organizations and companies. The Society of Human Resources points to studies that show vacations lead to greater retention, lower healthcare costs, and fewer sick days.
Taking time off increases productivity: Let’s get practical. Another reason to give time off to your employees is that it can give very real benefits back to the organization. Studies show that time off work can increase productivity and work output. In “The Data-Driven Case for Vacation,” Harvard Business Review found that “taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home.” This may seem counter intuitive at first, but working more doesn’t always mean that you get more. The law of diminishing returns is very much at play when it comes to work time – once people hit the 55 hour a week threshold, productivity takes a huge nosedive according to a study published by John Pencavel of Stanford University. Taking time away can boost productivity and creativity – which is good for the organization, and good for employees.
So, if you have vacation time, take it. If you’re in a leadership role, consider closing your doors for a short period of time to give everyone vacation at the same time. You – and your teams – will probably be happier and will come back better prepared to tackle the next big thing.