WEEKLY SABBATICAL & Productivity Increases When Time Off is Made Predictable—and Required

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: You think we would understand the importance of a regular sabbatical, when even God who would seem to never need it took a day off after creation. Yet in our ministry worlds we sometimes don’t get a reprieve from emails and work related duties. Yet research shows that having “required” and “regular” time off makes a team more productive. Read the research here.

Making Time Off Predictable, And Required

by Leslie A. Perlow and Jessica L. Porter, Harvard Business Review, 10/9/09 (view here: 8.95.)

People in professional services (consultants, investment bankers, accountants, lawyers, IT, and the like) simply expect to make work their top priority. They believe an “always on” ethic is essential if they and their firms are to succeed in the global marketplace. Just look at the numbers: According to a survey we conducted last year, 94% of 1,000 such professionals said they put in 50 or more hours a week, with nearly half that group turning in more than 65 hours a week. That doesn’t include the 20 to 25 hours a week most of them spend monitoring their BlackBerrys while outside the office. These individuals further say they almost always respond within an hour of receiving a message from a colleague or a client.

Yet our research over the past four years in several North American offices of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that it is perfectly possible for consultants and other professionals to meet the highest standards of service and still have planned, uninterrupted time off. Indeed, we found that when the assumption that everyone needs to be always available was collectively challenged, not only could individuals take time off, but their work actually benefited. Our experiments with time off resulted in more open dialogue among team members, which is valuable in itself. But the improved communication also sparked new processes that enhanced the teams’ ability to work most efficiently and effectively.

Predictable time off is the name we gave to the designated periods of time that consultants were required to take off…

(Lessons learned, included the following:)

Lesson 1: Impose a strict time-off mechanism

To get hard-driving consultants to agree to take time off during an assignment—not just when there happened to be a break in the work but at predictable times—we had to establish a mechanism that made it clear to everyone how time off must be taken: either a full day or a full night each week for everyone on the team, which was scheduled at the start of each project…

Lesson 2: Build dialogue into the process

In each of our experiments, we used explicit tactics to generate conversation around the time-off goals in particular, and around work processes more generally…

Lesson 3: Encourage experimentation

Beyond creating a safe space for open dialogue, we found it imperative to encourage people to experiment with new work processes. Ways of working that would have previously gone unquestioned were suddenly fair game for reconsideration…

Lesson 4: Insist on leadership support

Individuals won’t willingly engage in these experiments unless they are able to suspend their disbelief. For that to happen, people need to know that there is value in trying; that they will be respected for participating; and that they will bear some responsibility for the success or failure of the experiment…

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2009/10/making-time-off-predictable-and-required