We all know the benefits of time off: personal rejuvenation and time with family and friends, just to name a couple. As business owners, we’re often the worst at truly taking time away from our businesses as we foster the “if it is to be, it’s up to me” mantra of the small business CEO. 

The culture of our small business is one of flexibility when it comes to the work schedule, whether it’s working from home when needed or taking time off for vacations and personal rejuvenation. This flexibility, though, occasionally has an unintended side effect of people (myself included) NOT taking time off because they know when they need it, it’s there. A few months ago, two members of my leadership team brought a new idea to the table – one Friday off, every month, for each and every employee. We’d stagger them so we had the backup we needed and were able to care for our clients, but these days, now dubbed “Free Fridays,” would be scheduled as any other all-day event for the entire year. 

I’m a fan of personal time off, except when it comes to myself, it appears. When my first Free Friday rolled around, I forgot about it until Thursday afternoon and promptly left loose ends dangling and had to rush through my afternoon to finish things up for the week. The following month was better prepared for, but I had no idea what to do with my day, and if you know me at all, you can guess what I did: found some other thing to work on at home. 

This month’s Free Friday was the first one I’ve fully engaged with, and it brought everything this day was intended to me. I took my wife and my 10 month old Rottweiler out for the day, ran some errands, socialized the dogs in several stores, tried a new pet-friendly restaurant, and didn’t even glance at my email. It was the freedom I needed as a person, and it came via an initiative born and bred from our culture at the office, championed by others on the team, and now enjoyed by everyone. 

We all need breaks; that much is obvious. The Free Fridays we now hold at our office create an extra two weeks of “vacation time” for each member of our team. The refreshed perspective, appreciation of a perk, and extra time to spend on things that matter outside of work has reaped far more than it is “costing” us in lost time at the office. 

How does your business encourage (and even mandate) time away from work? Would a new routine benefit your team that offers scheduled rest, relaxation, and refreshment? I’d love to hear about how you develop this in your own culture, and encourage you to see what ideas others on your team may have. I wasn’t a big fan of Free Fridays when we started them, but they’re now something I wouldn’t trade for much of anything..