This article was originally published in the Alliance Magazine blog.
Global Fund for Children Managing Director Hayley Roffey reflects on GFC’s decision to close for a week over the summer.
In early August, GFC had our first-ever global wellbeing week, where we closed our “real life” and virtual office doors to make way for rest, recuperation, and recovery.
This is what I learned:
- It is super rare! When I mentioned it to people, it was hard for many to get their head around the idea that we were gifted a week off to take care of ourselves. Another colleague told me that, when he shared the good news with his friends, they thought it was a wellbeing week for him alone and that something was wrong.
- It’s amazing to come back to work with little inbox traction. Knowing everyone else is off alongside you reassures you that problems are not emerging that need your attention and that your colleagues are all doing ok while you’re off. It allows space to completely switch off, without the worry that someone needs you or that you will be coming back to a much bigger workload than you left.
- Planning your schedule for the week before wellbeing week is vital. If you end up having two weeks’ worth of meetings squeezed into one week because you feel like you have to make up for being off, the wellness week loses its incredible power as you’re already so exhausted as you begin it.
- Time is such a gift – to be given the gift of time felt special and something not to be wasted, yet, in a funny way, I felt able to enjoy time in a different way rather than planning every second to make the most of time off. I caught up on TV programs I haven’t watched in months (I know, so crazy!), floated around my house with very little focus, ran a lot (I am – reluctantly at this point – training for the London Marathon), and did not get into my car for most of the week.
- Your out-of-office email is your best friend – telling peers, friends, and external relationships that your office is closed to take a rest. People listen and, for the most part, respect it and leave you alone. This is so appreciated. Some people who received my out-of-office message about wellbeing week have gotten in touch to ask how we did it and to think about doing the same for their workforce.
- Timing is crucial – our organization has almost 50 team members across 19 countries, so a couple of people had non-negotiables that needed to be covered. When planning this time off, we also did not realize just how many reports and deadlines were due July 31! This is learning to consider for next year to ensure these gifts of time and rest are planned with as much notice as possible to take into account all key deliverables that fall across a complex organization.
- I could feel the excitement of time off pending across the organization – hearing about plans made, trips booked, and wellbeing treats carved out was such a lovely shared experience for all.
- I think we should do it every year…watch this space!
Header Photo: Two women embracing during a GFC convening in Tapachula, Mexico, in 2018. © Global Fund for Children