By Gerri Detweiler
It’s been a brutal year for many businesses and their employees, and employee burnout has become a serious issue for many companies. One entrepreneur recently observed the “utter, soul-crushing exhaustion” on the faces of her employees during a Zoom call and decided to make the radical decision of shutting down her business for a full month to give them time to rest and reenergize.
“I decided to give our whole staff the month of August off—paid,” says Kate Compton Barr, cofounder and CEO of pip & grow, a company that offers sleep solutions for new families. “No one will be checking email, filling orders, running campaigns, or developing new products. No work. None.”
The company is in the process of launching an infant safety and sleep support membership and will soon be publishing a baby sleep ebook. Normally new launches require extra hustle, but Compton Barr has decided to take the opposite approach. “Instead of asking [employees] to hustle, I [asked] them to rest—we’re calling it the anti-hustle,” she says.
Making the most of the shutdown
To keep the business running during the down time, employees are putting in place a number of systems. These include:
- On the B2B side, offering significant discounts for bulk orders placed before the pause. This will help fund the pause, and encourage B2B partners to place their orders in a timely fashion so they can be filled before the break.
- Focusing on automating systems that will allow orders to be filled while staff is away.
- Accelerating the publication of The Mother of All Baby Sleep Books so it can generate some revenue while the company is paused.
- Alerting customers of the upcoming pause so they have plenty of time to place orders.
- Asking customers for patience and understanding. Compton Barr says, “I think everyone recognizes the importance of a break after this year and we trust that our customers will have patience with us.”
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Not surprisingly, employees are immensely grateful, and the company’s social media post announcing the decision has garnered praise—and lots of employment inquiries, including inquiries from C-level employees at Fortune 500 companies. While overwhelmingly the response has been positive, Compton Barr says she also “got a bunch of messages from fellow business owners asking if I had lost my mind.”
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Compton Barr’s one regret? That she told her six full-time employees over email rather than Zoom where she could have seen their faces. A couple were concerned they may not have a job to return to in September, but once she reassured them, they were grateful.
Employee burnout means less productivity, creativity
“After a really hard year for all of us, to be given the opportunity to take a pause and regroup with my family makes me feel so lucky,” says Kelly DuVall, pip & grow’s creative director. “I know we will all come back so refreshed and energized!”
CMO Sarah Nau says, “As a working mom, this past year has been brutal, and I say that acknowledging the privilege that allowed me to remain employed and my family to be housed, healthy, and fed. So to have your company take a step back and say, ‘This year has been hard. This year has been unprecedented. We see you’—and actually back that up with a paid month off is wonderfully overwhelming. It has made me excited to work as hard as I can to ensure pip is around for a long time.”
While she made the decision quickly, Compton Barr says it had been percolating for a while. She admits it’s stressful to face a potential dip in revenues and she’s working to make sure there’s money in the bank to help survive that, whatever it looks like. But she’s also seeing employees pulling together to make the pause work.
“Long term, I expect we’ll see happier employees, more creativity, more energy, and a deeper connection to our company,” she insists. “Our products will be better, cooler, and more helpful because we are taking time to rest. Tired people make tired decisions and do tired work.”
End the “hustle” culture that leads to employee burnout
Ultimately, Compton Barr would love to see the “hustle” culture eliminated from entrepreneurship, pointing out that it often comes at the expense of health, well-being, and relationships. While the pandemic allowed (and forced) many changes, Compton Barr has observed the “siren song of ‘hustle’ growing louder again,” but says she will not be going back.
She realizes not all business owners can shut down for a month, but encourages other companies to consider options. “At pip, we will trust that our products are of value and that people who want to buy them will also appreciate our commitment to our staff,” she says. “I really hope other business owners will join me in this.”
About the Author
Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, has been helping individuals and small business owners make smarter credit and financing decisions for more than two decades; follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn. See Gerri’s articles and full bio at AllBusiness.com.
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This article was originally published on AllBusiness.com.