Every year at the end of December AirBnB shuts down for a whole two weeks. Yep, you read that right - the company takes an en masse break. They run a skeleton staff to service customers, but they don't organize any meetings or start new projects. While this has to be one of the the most attractive perks in the technology industry, it actually makes good business sense.
AirBnB has been growing exponentially over the past decade from a single airbed in San Francisco to hosting nearly 100 million guests this year. Working in a high-growth business is like running a marathon with staff exerting at a high pace day-in day-out. The shutdown means employees get to renew their energy with minimum business disruption.
Your office may not shut for two weeks but you can still get some rest and recuperation by practicing what endurance athletes call active recovery. They drop to a slower pace for a fixed period so their heart rate drops and they can replenish their energy to go the long haul.
Like an endurance race, growing a business requires a high levels of exertion over an extended period of time. The good news is that you and your team can also use active recovery to renew energy reserves. For example, a sales team, winning a big deal is a high-exertion activity, whereas building (or rebuilding) the sales pipeline might be a form of active recovery. A project team might slow down after a project is completed to finish documentation, summarize lessons learned, or even celebrate the achievement.
Here are a four ways that you can practice active recovery while you are working.
1. Do practice and recovery drills
Next time you learn a new skill, build in breaks between practice sessions to reduce the mental and sometimes physical exertion that comes with learning. Although it might seem efficient to blast through a three-day training program, we remember more and apply the skills better at work when we have short bursts of learning followed by time to absorb what we've learned, integrate it into our job, share it with others on the team, or simply catch up with other things.
2. Use routines to learn after experience
Routines make it easier for us to learn from key experiences, we also help to conserve energy in the present and build insights to conserve even more energy in the future. Create a simple after-action review and use it to close out all capital projects and organization improvement projects. This practice also helps teams understand what needs to be done in the future to improve their ability to go faster with less effort.
3. Build a rhythm for active recovery
Another way to create space for active recovery is to build it into the rhythm of high-exertion work processes. For example after a period of high exertion, intentionally hold a couple of days "meeting-free" to give everyone a chance to catch up.
One last way you can slow down is to deliberately disconnect from technology. I see a growing number of leaders who are finding ways to help their people disconnect like limiting or not responses to emails after work or over the weekend. I like the practice of creating "no tech" zones in the workplace to make it easier for people to simply think or talk with others. I'm actually a huge fan of technology, we need to know when to shut it off.
Whether you are at home or in the office this holiday season, find ways to deliberately make time for recovery and renewal.