Closing Over the Holidays Is Good Business

If you contact Block Club any time after, say, 6 p.m. on Friday, December 21, you shouldn’t expect a response in 2018.

It’s not that we don’t care about your e-mail/phone call/Facebook message; we do! We just won’t be around to field it. Not a single one of us.

That’s because Block Club completely shuts down between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. This year, because of the way the calendar falls, our break amounts to 11 days of non-operation with pay for every team member.

To an outsider, that may just seem like a nice company perk. But really, it is a rational business move. Here’s why.

Creativity and productivity demand downtime.

As designers, writers, and strategists at a busy branding and strategy agency, we’re obligated to flex our creative muscle all day, every day. But studies show that placing that sort of demand on our brains isn’t conducive to optimal output. Like your quads, hamstrings, or any other major muscle group, our grey matter becomes stressed and fatigued with exercise. Without recovery or restoration, cognitive performance, especially as it relates to problem-solving, declines—sometimes dramatically.

According to experts, time off in the form of short breaks and long vacations fuels creativity and focus and replenishes our willingess to work, which can lead to success. Just how and why is a matter of intensive research, with many pointing to our brains’ default mode network (DMN)—a synchronous communication circuit between disparate brain regions that seems to fire when we are at rest—as the cause. According to some research, as reported in Scientific American, “the mind obliquely solves tough problems” while engaged in DMN-mechanized daydreaming, and the network is especially active in creative people. If you’ve ever had an ah-ha moment in the shower, you can probably thank your DMN.

Standard PTO isn’t actually downtime.

You could argue that a generous allotment of paid time off would provide staff ample opportunity to break away and engage in some extended DMN action. But the reality of PTO is that it’s stressful unto itself. Getting ahead of your work in anticipation of your departure and then catching up on missed work upon your return requires seemingly as many hours in overtime as you took off in the first place. And let’s not forget the propensity to check our email and fret about the workload waiting for us while we are supposed to be relaxing.

When you shut down the office and everyone has off at once, you mitigate that problem. There are no compiling deadlines or convoluted email chains to catch up on when you return. It’s time away uncompromised.

It supports our company vision.

At the outset of 2018, we wrote a five-year company vision. In that vision, we aspire to be better tomorrow than we are today and providing a great workplace for our team. In service of those overarching goals, Block Club committed to fostering employees’ opportunities to develop and have new experiences outside of the office, so we can all stay fresh and informed. One way we do this is through our residency program in Europe and South America. Our holiday break is another. With so many uncompromised days off, people have additional incentive to experience something that isn’t our normal day-to-day. For some members of our team, that experience will take the form of travel; others of us will devote the time to our hobbies, passions, and activities of wellness, contemplation, and introspection that build competence, buffer stress, and otherwise satisfy our psychological needs. If all goes according to plan, each of us will return in 2019 better—that is, happier, energized, sounder of mind and body, and with new perspectives to apply to our ever-improving body of work.

It’s not for everyone, but it could work for you.

We recognize that shutting down for an extended period isn’t a viable option for every company. We have the luxury of being small and nimble (not that some large companies don’t do the same thing). It also helps that much of the work we do requires approval and feedback from decision-makers at client organizations who, themselves, are out of the office during the same period. Once upon a time, when we were open between the holidays, projects would inevitably stall, and productivity would slow, tipping the balance further toward closing.

For the most part, our clients are very understanding of our decision to go off grid temporarily, and there are always special circumstances that require us to relax the absolutely-no-work policy we try to instate. In instances where work we perform can’t go completely on hold—social media management, for example—we do take measures to ensure continuity of service. And in cases of dire branding emergency, one of us will jump back online to address the problem or concern. But those instances are very rare.

Assuming your organization doesn’t provide a critical service, you might likewise find that the benefits of closing between the holidays outweigh the costs. What’s more, we suspect you and your business might be better for it.

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