Working remotely has been a challenge, to say the least. It has forced companies, individuals, and families to change the way they work--and more importantly, how they balance that work with everything else. Right now, "everything else" includes things no one imagined we'd be dealing with when this year started.
As a result, companies have had to figure out ways to help their employees stay focused while also making time for themselves. In a memo to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged that it isn't easy and encouraged them to take time for themselves to avoid burnout. To help, Google is taking a few steps that are worth considering for your own company.
First, the company is giving everyone two additional days off. While the company set Friday, December 18, 2020, and Monday, January 4, 2021, as company-wide bonus days, it also recognizes that different teams have different requirements and those days may not be the best fit. Google is giving workers the flexibility to make adjustments.
In addition to more time off, the company has a brilliant three-word plan to help team members avoid burnout while they are working.
"No Meetings Weeks."
That's exactly like it sounds: Weeks where there are no meetings scheduled. If you've been working remotely for any length of time, you know how nice that sounds.
Pichai's memo to employees describes the reason this way:
Some of our teams have also held "no meetings weeks," which create space for Googlers to either focus on independent work, or make it easier to switch off entirely and take a vacation. We've decided to make December 28, 2020 to January 1, 2021 an official no meetings week across the company. Of course, there will be exceptions for teams that are working to hit hard deadlines, closing deals, or supporting critical infrastructure (please watch for guidance from your leadership). Otherwise, let's move or cancel all routine and non-critical meetings that week.
It's a simple and effective way to help give your team a gift of time, and to help them clear their schedule of meetings. As someone who has worked remotely for years, I can say that it truly does feel like a gift.
There are many advantages to working from home, but one of the bigger challenges is that managers have a tendency to think they need to replace the physical proximity of working together in an office with a lot of face-to-face time on screen. That means that many remote workers have been spending a lot of time in video meetings.
That is exhausting.
In fact, I'm in favor of less virtual meetings in general. I'm definitely a fan of setting a company-wide priority to give team members a week off from the constant stream of meetings, which often serve no other function than to interrupt whatever work your team is trying to accomplish anyway. If nothing else, you should absolutely steal this idea for your company, if you aren't doing it already.
Furthermore, one of the things I love about Google's initiative is that it came from something that its teams were doing already. Often the very best ideas for taking care of your people come from those who are already responsible for doing just that.
The other thing that's worth pointing out is that Google is giving teams the flexibility to adapt these initiatives in a way that best works for their group needs. To be honest, this might even be the more important thing you can take from Google's plan: It's up to leaders to give your employees space to rest and get away, and to allow them to do it in a way that actually fits their work.
The best part is: It's as simple as three words you can use too.