IFYC is closing up shop the week of July 5, and that’s good for business. Here’s why.

Tiles spell out "rest."

Earlier this year, our leadership team was grappling with a question. We launched some amazing programs this year – Faith and VaccineWe Are Each Other’sBlack InterfaithEngaging Religious Diversity at WorkRacial Equity grants, and Racial Equity Media Fellows, just to name a few. We did all of this during an incredibly challenging year of twin pandemics – COVID-19 and racial injustice. Our question was this: How could we thank our team for an insanely productive year? The answer was obvious – give people time off. But how could we give time off in a way that was meaningful and truly allow our team to slow down? The second answer wasn’t as obvious to us at first, but became clear – we’re closing the office for an entire week and giving everyone the week off.  

IFYC will be offline next week, July 5-9th, 2021. 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: One option we considered was to give our team a week of paid time off (PTO), to be taken when they choose. 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. However, giving extra PTO means that team members are out of the office at different times. Even when team members do take time off, they may feel pressured to check e-mail or do “just one thing” on a project – therefore, not taking time to truly un-plug. Checking email on vacation is not a vacation. Closing up shop for one week where everyone is out at the same time is a really meaningful way to show our team that we are serious about slowing down and giving downtime. 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 there’s even a call for a nationwide one week vacation.  
  • Closing the office aligns with religious and secular values: As a committed Christian, prioritizing rest is a sacred value to me personally. 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 Kline reflects on rest in her tradition: “Growing up, observing the Sabbath meant challah and cheese tortellini on Friday nights and the occasional trek to services at our synagogue but in college, I learned about the magic of disconnecting with social media breaks. It became important for me to have time to be present with friends, without the dings of emails or comments, to reflect on the week that happened and the week to come, to center myself in the now, and 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 from 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. You – and your teams – will probably be happier, and come back better prepared to tackle the next big thing.  

Amber Hacker (@AmberJHacker) is the Vice President of Operations and Finance at Interfaith Youth Core. She currently oversees a wide range of functions within the organization, from accounting, IT, talent development, HR, to facilities and operations. She holds an MBA from American University’s Kogod School of Business where she studied finance and time management (which she did while working full time and also being a full-time parent, so she practices what she preaches!). Amber was recently featured in an article on personal finance for Woman’s Day magazine. She and her husband Jason live in Chicago with their two children. 

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.