Miles Storey — https://unsplash.com/@miless

Time is a lot like freedom: we all want more but, the moment we have it, we don’t know what to do with it. Like long-time prisoners, our brains have been trained to live in confinement. Once we have the opportunity to get to the “outside” world, this territory we wished for, seems dangerously unfamiliar.

We live in a time where routine and unskilled tasks are being absorbed by robots or autonomous technology. A few days ago, we witnessed the first-ever self-driving truck beer delivery. More than ever, we have the priceless opportunity to repurpose “human labor” (and time) into something more meaningful. Instead of thinking how you can do more things in less time, ask yourself: “what really drives my work?”.

Back to the prison analogy, we’ve been educated to play within the confines of our own walls. Being “super-busy”, not only is socially accepted but also, appear to make people look smarter or superior. As I discussed in a previous piece, busyness is killing people at work: we’ve allowed it to take over our lives. As a leader, I believe we must do something to remedy this.

That is why, earlier this week, we announced to the entire organization our new “Recess policy”: a time to pause at work. I will explain the details later. The most important thing is, as I told our team, not what we are doing but, the WHY we are doing it.

Always On? Please Pause.

“Why don’t adults have recess?” — Mia, 8-year old

Sweden has been running an experiment that, against American logic, proves that a six-hour work day actually increases productivity at work. Even the manufacturer of one of the fastest motorcycles, Ducati, understands the importance of slowing down. As portrayed in a Michael Moore’s documentary, the Italian factory provides 2-hour lunch breaks so that its employees can spend time enjoying homemade food with their families and recharge not just their stomachs, but also their motivation.

Which reminds me of one of the things I like the most when I participate on a century ride: the SAG stops. Not only do you get time to stretch out and recharge your body but it’s a nice pause to spend with others, making the effort feel less demanding. Instead of thinking that I have to bike 100 miles, I approach each stage between stops, one at a time.

A couple of months ago, while running a workshop on work-life balance, we encouraged participant to talk to kids for inspiration. Interestingly enough, one kid was surprised about how corporate America works: “Why don’t adults have recess?”- she asked with a nice dose of innocence and sarcasm.

Connecting all these stories created the perfect inspirational ground for our new policy. But, most importantly, shed light on why we implemented “recess” at LAPIZ. As an organization, we understand that our people are our only asset, we care and respect them as individuals (their time as well).

We want to remind them that, like freedom, time is one of the most precious things people have. And to manage it purposefully, not allow others steal their time. For example, in the event of changes in cabin air pressure, a mother must put on her own oxygen mask before helping her kids. Same thing happens with time: if one doesn’t manage its time wisely, how can he help others do so?

We are not playing it easy or lowering our bar, by providing a “pause” , our team will be recharged to give their best when they focus back on work.

Recess In a Material World

“What am I going to do with this free time?” — Brenda, a curious mind.

Our “recess” experiment is simple: we want to encourage our team members to pause and recharge, to have an “official” space for recovery. We want this to be a collective experience: by everyone taking the same “breaks” we make sure that no one gets interrupted.

“Recess” is meant to play and let go. Being playful at work is a fundamental mindset that we need to bring back to work but, especially in a creative industry like ours. Embracing a experimental approach is important to fully benefit from this experience (which I hope it becomes part of our culture). We expect our clients, suppliers are partners to understand (and respect) our “recess” time.

We defined three break periods: 10:30–10:45AM , 12:00–1:00PM, 3:15–3:30PM. Recess is mandatory. Everyone is expected to adhere and respect each others’ time: calendars for the entire team have been blocked and team rooms won’t be used (for work) during that time.

The first break caught everyone by surprise. Building on a colleague’s suggestion, the sound of a bell ringing came out from our head of strategy’s computer. Like a nice Pavlovian conditioning, the sound reminded us of school time, everyone left their work space to enjoy the gift of a pause.

It was an unknown territory, we all felt lost immediately. “What am I going to do with this free time?” — one of our team members asked. No one was ready to answer. We don’t expect people to do anything in particular. We’d love people to experiment: ideally, to leave their work space and get lost or go for a walk, whatever pleases them.

With previous experiments we put in place, I’ve purposefully waited to get some traction and reflect before writing about it. In this particular case, regardless of what the aftermath of our “recess policy” is, the conversation it sparked has made the experiment worthwhile. Time will tell us what’s working and what can be improved: we have yet to define how we will engage participation and how we will collect feedback. As for now, time to take a pause, I can hear the bell ringing… Adult recess is about to start.

PS: still not sure? Check out “The Lunch Manifesto”: http://www.lunchstudio.com/p/lunch-manifesto.html

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