At CHANI, we close our office for seven weeks every year: one week in the spring, two weeks in the summer, and four weeks over the winter holidays. (When you read this, we’ll be offline for spring break.)

Everything we do is first and foremost for the benefit of our team. We have a lot to accomplish as a company, and we can only do so if our team thrives long-term. But/and, my entire life’s work is centered on systems change (I have an exact Saturn–Uranus conjunction in the 1st House to thank for that: Saturn = systems and Uranus = disruption), so I would be lying if I said that I didn’t hope other workplaces would see value in our practices and adopt the ones that work for them.

At our first staff meeting of the year, folks on the team shared how meaningful these set times off are for them and we talked about ways to share their stories with others. The purpose of this letter is to do just that.

The 5 main reasons we regularly close our office:

  1. We view these periods as opportunities for collective rest. Everything has cycles — including the Moon, our bodies, and our work. When we rest, we regenerate. When the entire team rests, we regenerate together.
  2. When everyone is out of the office at the same time, no one needs to worry about coming back from vacation to 879 emails from their coworkers. This stress does not make for effective rest.
  3. No rest = burnout. Burnout = high turnover. High turnover = bad economics. It costs employers much more to lose employees, re-hire new people, and then train them than it does to invest in sustainable workplace practices.
  4. While we offer unlimited PTO and a vacation stipend to incentivize our employees to take time off, we do not operate within a broader culture where taking more than a few days or a week here and there is normal (I grew up in the UK where two-week vacations were standard). To expect that our team will ask for as much time off as they need is a fool’s errand.
  5. Have you ever known anyone to be high-functioning between mid-December and mid-January?

Additional notes for employers:

  • You might read this and think, “Good for you — our business model doesn’t allow everyone to be off at once.” At CHANI, we want to be responsive to customers and app users at all times, which means that our customer service team takes their break in shifts. For example, half of our customer service team is off the full month of December, and the other half is off the full month of January. It’s not a totally perfect system in which every single member of our team has the exact same time off, but that’s okay. 
  • You might also read this and balk at the thought of taking seven weeks off. If so, what does feel doable? A week? Two weeks? We didn’t start with the full seven weeks — we got there gradually.
  • I’m a firm believer that most employers want to build thriving workplaces, but we are all conditioned to do what everyone else does. If that’s coming up for you, does it feel like logic you want to be driven by?
  • If you have questions or concerns about offering more time off to your employees, I’d be happy to help you think through those challenges. Send an email to [email protected], and your questions will get to me.

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Testaments from the CHANI team

On the impact of office closures:

“I’m so grateful for this time and these forced breaks! I love my job and I love working! I definitely would not take this much time off if this wasn’t a whole-office closure. It’s even better than taking other planned vacations, because everyone is off — not just me — and I’m not wondering how things are going back at work while I’m away. Our office closures give me the opportunity to truly rest and meaningfully connect with friends and family.”

On the importance of slowing down:

“It is vital to rest. To take a break. To return to yourself beyond work. To remember how differently a day’s hours can pass depending on what you’re doing. To spend time with family, with yourself, with being off of a screen and outdoors whenever possible. This time allows me to return to me, to check in, to see about what books I want to read, or practices I want to take up. I deeply appreciate this time. Its effects are profound.”

On unlearning urgency:

“The ability to deeply rest is cathartic, to say the least. I went through some internal shame dynamics this past break but I had the resources and time to get back to my center and even found it had moved to make more space for this new relaxed me.”

On coming back into balance:

“There are so many elements of life that naturally fall to the wayside in order to keep a handle on work and practical affairs throughout the year. It’s difficult to get to the roots of subtler issues or dreams on weekends. Having what feels like a true abundance of time allows many things to rise to the surface, creatively, psychologically. I’m able to make deep progress on matters of great significance in my life and stack up my blessings.”

On re-learning to be present:

“These time periods give me the ability to phase out of work mode and be fully present with my family. Eventually, I disengage from work completely, but it does take some time to get to that point. Then I’m able to remember things and people I love outside of work.”

If you’re interested in joining the CHANI team, you can view our open roles here.


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