To say that the COVID era was a tough time for everyone is the understatement of the century. As a business owner, mother and wife, my sense of control and routine were turned upside down in a matter of just a few hours. Being responsible for the sense of wellbeing for so many people can be overwhelming, and I know my employees at The James Agency were experiencing similar stresses in their own lives.
Dating app Bumble recently announced that it gave its 700 employees a full week of paid, totally-offline vacation in June to promote mental health and wellbeing and reward them for their hard work as the world was locked down. It was a move inspired by an op-ed in The New York Times advocating for a paid vacation for everyone post-COVID.
I commend Bumble for taking this step toward additional paid time off. At The James Agency, we’ve been “shutting it down” in July for several years. For the week of the Fourth of July, (or if the Fourth falls on a weekend, the week after the holiday) we shut TJA down for our annual “Summer Recharge.” The week is a traditionally slow for our clients as they take vacations and time off of their own.
Rather than asking my employees to use their own PTO at this time, I made the decision to close the office at this time. The reason? Creativity.
Creativity is the backbone of our business as a fully integrated marketing agency specializing in web development, social media, public relations, creative services, media buying and more. Simply having “butts in seats” on a slow week does not foster the kinds of experiences that allow my team to think outside the box. Only living life — seeing family, taking trips, experiencing new and different things — lets people escape from day-to-day office life. Without any inspiration, how can they be inspired?
An extra week of PTO might seem like too much to offer for traditional employers, but what I’m doing is not unheard of. In Europe, the average PTO is 20 days — or four work weeks. In the U.S., it is 12 days, or a mere two work weeks.
Ultimately limited time off leads to burnout. Burnout leads to employee turnover. Turnover is ultimately detrimental to clients and your brand. If giving a little extra time off means mitigating these factors, I say “So long! See you in a week.”
In 2021, our Summer Recharge feels especially deserved. TJA’s employees were quick to adapt to the COVID work from home format. Clients did not notice a decline in communication or service. Ultimately, our collaborative team stayed nimble and our hard work and flexibility meant TJA did not have to lay off a single employee, even as we experienced a client exodus when they began tightening their purse strings in March 2020.
TJA puts a huge emphasis on culture. The Summer Recharge is just one of many ways that we promote employee engagement and happiness. My advice to employers is to learn from the lesson of COVID. Trust that your team wants to do a good job and reward them with the types of incentives that keep them coming back to the office happy, healthy and inspired to work — even if that means they don’t actually work for a week.
Veronique James is the Founder and CEO of Scottsdale’s The James Agency. She founded TJA in 2005 with the goal of creating an agency focused on open communication and transparency with clients and employees. Today, the award-winning, integrated agency specializes in consumer advertising, public relation and digital and continues to exemplify Veronique’s original vision. To learn more, visit www.thejamesagency.com.