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Should You Disappear During the "Missing Week"?

Romjul. Have you heard of it? It’s not the latest new frustrating piece of furniture to assemble from Ikea. It is the Norwegian custom of taking the week between Christmas and New Year’s off from work. A time to unplug, reconnect with family and friends, and take some downtime. In business, some call this the “missing week” and you’ll find arguments on why it can be beneficial to take this time to work. However, in the interest of work/life balance, the Norwegians may be doing it right. Closing down your office for the “missing week” (or encouraging the use of PTO) and allowing yourself and your employees to truly unplug, can have many benefits.

Improved productivity to start the New Year: Let’s be honest, how much work is actually getting done in the office anyway? Many employees opt to take vacation days during this time, so you may already be dealing with a smaller staff than usual. Clients and customers may have taken time off too. Productivity will not be at its peak during this week. Taking this week off and returning to work after New Year’s Day can mean you and your employees come back refreshed, focused, and ready to work.

You let your employees know it is OK to take time off: Not taking allotted vacation days is considered archaic to some. More recently, employers are encouraging their staff members to use their vacation days. In a survey conducted of 5,600 people by the US Travel Association’s Project Time Off, it was discovered that 54% of US workers did not take all their vacation days. In our fast paced world, people don’t often feel they can or should take a vacation. And even when they do, Robert Half reports that 60% of workers will check in while they are away from the office. When the entire office is closed, executives, managers, and employees all at the same time, the pressure is off to feel like you need to check in. A healthy work/life balance is modeled in your organization from the top down.

Healthier employees: Why does it matter that your employees (and you) get enough vacation time? More hours in means more productivity, doesn’t it? Well, this is not necessarily true. Studies reveal that people who take vacations are better able to deal with stress and more productive than their counterparts who do not. And it’s not just mental health that improves. A study published by the American Medical Association reports that men who took annual vacations were 32% less likely to die from heart related conditions. A similar study was conducted over the course of 20 years and showed that women who only took a vacation once every six years were 8 times more likely to develop coronary artery disease or suffer a heart attack.

Increased employee loyalty and retention: If it makes business and financial sense for you to do so, being closed during this time is a huge perk. Employees don’t have to make child care arrangements if they have school-aged children. Travel arrangements become easier. And if this is something you can repeat each year and have as a permanent perk, you can attract better talent to your company as well.

So should you go missing during the “missing week”? There are potential benefits and also some drawbacks to consider. And while not every industry or every employee may be able to take the time off at the end of the year, if your company can, it is certainly something you may want to think about. Happy Romjul to everyone!

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