Around mid-year, our teams in South Africa and the USA started to look…simply exhausted. I’d received more than a few messages that people were tired even when they’d recently returned from time off. It’s likely a combination of renewed lockdowns, home-schooling and days filled with online meetings. I know, not just from observation, but from global research that we’re working more than ever before in remote settings.
Our core purpose of making people healthier and enhancing and protecting their lives doesn’t just extend to our clients – it applies to our employees too. In addition to annual leave, we needed to be creative and think of ways for our employees to continue feeling resilient and energized during their workday; some kind of a break in the day to allow people to move, rest, recharge and reconnect.
Leveraging off an initiative by Vitality South Africa, we decided to implement a No-Meeting Recharge Hour – a dedicated hour every day from 12 PM to 1 PM where no internal meetings or calls are scheduled. The uninterrupted hour allows people to focus on what’s important to them. We encourage our employees to take time just for themselves and to prioritize their mental wellbeing. This could be a walk in the sun, a meditation break, lunch with a child or parent – whatever fuels them for the second half of the day.
It isn’t a strict mandate and of course emergencies are accommodated. We agreed to run a pilot for our USA and SA offices where internal meetings were blocked out at this time. We also asked everyone not to send emails – especially not at 11.55 am – so everyone is offline, mentally and physically at the same time.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from our people:
“The recharge hour is transforming my life. It made my whole day more bearable.”
“It has persuaded me to actively participate in more self-enriching activities. I use 30 minutes to eat lunch and the other 30 to bask in the sun or read a poem, which enables me to return to my work with a refreshed mind.”
I loved this response: “It forces me to leave my laptop without any guilt and now gives me the opportunity to get a workout done. This leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and gives me the drive to continue with the rest of the day.”
Others took time to exercise or to prepare healthy food and eat with their kids. As a result of a successful pilot, we have now implemented recharge hour permanently. While it’s still early days, I know we’re creating a movement which ultimately makes for healthier, happier people. There’s nothing more important to me and our organization.