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What are company-wide shutdowns and how do you implement them?

Curious about company-wide shutdowns and how they work? In this blog, we'll explain what a company-wide shutdown is, the benefits it offers, and how to implement one effectively.

9th Jun 2024

Time-off may not always be as restful as hoped; with the continual need to check in and stay up to date with emails and slack messages for peace of mind. Company wide-shutdowns give employees a ‘real’ break with everyone being off simultaneously.

In recent years, the concept of company-wide holiday shutdowns has gained traction as a means to promote work-life balance and prevent burnout. In this blog post, we will look at the reasons why company shutdowns are crucial and provide practical guidance on how to implement them effectively.

What is a company-wide shutdown?

A company-wide shutdown is when a business temporarily closes, and everyone gets time off at the same time. This can happen for holidays, maintenance, or just to give employees a break. During this period, no work is done, and everyone gets time off to recharge and rejuvenate. These shut-down periods can be part of your annual leave or be given in addition to annual leave. This will differ depending on the company.

Why are company-wide shutdowns on the rise?

The digital age has brought with it a myriad of benefits, but it has also blurred the lines between work and personal life. Employees are spending an increasingly large amount of time online, with the average UK adult spending on average 3 hours 41 minutes online per day online. This constant connectivity has taken a toll on mental health, leading to a rise in depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

It is important for companies to recognise the impact of this "always-on" culture and take proactive steps to address it. Company-wide shutdowns provide a much-needed break from the demands of work, allowing employees to truly disconnect and recharge. By prioritising mental well-being, you are not only supporting your employees but also investing in the long-term success of your organisation.

Leading by example: the role of leadership in work-life blend

Implementing a company-wide shutdown is not enough on its own. To truly create a culture that values work-life balance, leadership must set the tone. When senior executives openly communicate their plans to unplug during the shutdown period, it sends a powerful message to employees that it is not only acceptable but encouraged to do the same.

Take the example of Tim Ryan, US chair and senior partner at PWC. Ahead of the company's shutdown week in July, he took to social media to share his plans to spend time with family and take his dog for extra-long walks. By aligning his words and actions, he emphasised the importance of fully disconnecting from work during the shutdown period.

As an HR professional, you can work with leadership to ensure that they are modelling the behaviour they wish to see in their employees. Encourage them to communicate their plans for the shutdown period and to be visible in their commitment to unplugging.

Taking time off matters for every business 

Stats from the Happiness Index indicate that time off is one of the main benefits that a candidate looks for when searching for a new role. Data such as this initially led to the phenomenon of companies offering unlimited annual leave. What sounds like an amazing benefit comes with some major caveats. 

At one end of the spectrum, you might have employees who take advantage of this policy. The major pitfall, however, is the vast majority of employees would end up taking less than their statutory minimum level of annual leave, creating the opposite effect of what was intended.

Building a strong employer value proposition and positive work culture around taking time off is one of the most valuable things you can do for your working environment. Let employees know that it is totally okay to switch off from work to rest and recharge, and encourage senior leadership to role model this behaviour too. Not only does this create more productive, happier and engaged employees, but this also helps to reduce absenteeism and, ultimately, improves a company’s bottom line. 

The fear of disconnecting from work 

The reality is that taking time off and fully disconnecting from work has become more difficult than ever before. Many of us are riddled with the feeling of guilt and obsess over tasks that we haven't managed to complete, this includes both the leadership team and employees. 

Here are just a few simple tips you can share with your employees to help them unplug, not just for company shutdowns - any time off whether that be sickness or annual leave:

  • Disconnect from distractions - switch off all notifications including Slack and emails for at least some time during your time off.
  • Set a plan - communicate this plan with colleagues so if something crops up whilst you’re off, they can step in on your behalf. 
  • Let go - sometimes with work we have trouble letting responsibilities go; instead, enjoy or rest during your time off and lean on your colleagues for support. Vice versa you can do the same for them. 

How to implement a successful Company-Wide Shutdown

Now that we've explored the importance of company-wide shutdowns, let's dive into how to implement them effectively. Here are some key steps to consider:

1. Plan ahead: Give employees plenty of notice so that they can plan their time off accordingly. This will also allow teams to coordinate and ensure that critical tasks are covered.

2. Communicate clearly: Make sure that employees understand the purpose of the shutdown and what is expected of them during this time. Provide clear guidelines on how to handle any urgent matters that may arise.

3. Lead by example: As mentioned earlier, leadership must be visible in their commitment to unplugging during the shutdown period. Encourage senior executives to share their plans and to fully disconnect.

4. Provide support: Consider offering resources to help employees make the most of their time off, such as suggestions for local activities or tips for relaxation and self-care.

5. Evaluate and adjust: After the shutdown period, take the time to gather feedback from employees and assess the impact on productivity and well-being. Use this information to refine your approach for future shutdowns.

By following these steps, you can create a successful company-wide shutdown that promotes employee well-being and drives business success.