Why Recess Is Just as Important for Your Employees as It Is for Children

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Build time to recharge into the work day.

I’m a father of two toddlers so I know firsthand the benefits of recess and play. According to the CDC there are many benefits of children having a daily recess. In fact, it is proven to improve memory, attention, and concentration, help students stay on-task in the classroom, and improve their social and emotional development.

So if the benefits are proven for our children, why are we not bringing recess into the workplace?

The truth is that we are burning a candle at both ends. We’re working with less bandwidth, sitting on hours of Zoom meetings affecting our overall physical well-being, have limited peer interaction, and our creative levels are at an all-time low as a result of not embracing downtime.

Personally I am no stranger to burnout and exhaustion during the course of my career, but it wasn’t until I joined Herbivore Botanicals that I became inspired to flip the script for our employees. At the onset of 2023, Herbivore adopted several modern-day business practices, rooted in recess and time away from our screens, that would benefit both our employees and the trajectory of our business.

Redefining the 9-to-5

Within our organization, the calculated days of punching in at 9 a.m. and clocking out at 5 p.m. were arbitrary. Our team lives across multiple time zones and many of our staff are parents or caretakers. In an effort to retain our team, while also having the opportunity to hire world-class talent, we ditched mandated work hours.

For us, it was more critical to implement a policy offering flexibility and 100 percent remote work, paired with a dedicated day to recharge. As a result, we found that our employees were taking better care of their physical and mental well-being, and in turn were happier and more focused, producing quality work.

End of the week recess

We took inspiration from the four-day work week, where 78 percent of employees have expressed being happier and less stressed, but instead of halting operations, we encouraged staff to choose how they spend their Fridays. While many of us embrace a forced recess, we are finding others are using the day to close up any loose ends, getting in front of the next week with no distractions.

Even with an untraditional four-day work week, it’s important to understand that internal goals aren’t changing, but the “how we get there” is. Communication, trust, and dedication are key to the survival of the four-day workweek.

Stop meeting proliferation

Dovetailing with Herbivore’s recess came the striking of all Friday meetings, and reassessing meetings in general. Personally, it took years for me to ease into effectively managing my time and priorities, but at the end of the day, and at the onset of 2023, hours of meetings and calls were still crowding my and my team’s calendars and headspace. It alarmed me to read that organizations spend roughly 15 percent of their time on meetings, with surveys showing that 71 percent of those meetings are considered unproductive by staff.

Yes, meetings are necessary, especially when you are 100 percent remote, but let’s give employees their time back by setting criteria for how we prepare, execute, and benefit from each and every single meeting. Let’s lead by challenging each meeting, based on priority delegation and team focus.

For instance, “Is the team too burned out to have this brainstorm? Is this meeting serving a purpose for the greater good of the team/brand? Can this meeting be a phone call or email?”

My biggest takeaway from bringing more recess into our workflow is that our employees are respecting one another’s time in and out of the office and are far more creative. By introducing these untraditional schedules, employees are fitting their job into their lifestyle, not the other way around. We value and admire our team, and the feeling is mutual because even with fewer hours in the workweek, our staff continues to deliver stellar work and meet tight deadlines.