If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may not be surprised that my idea for this blog came on a bike ride – again.  Sorry about that, but I do some of my best thinking while out on rides.  The upside for me is maybe I could also submit my blog to Bicycling Magazine!

I’ve been doing some extra training recently as I am doing a 50-mile fundraising ride.  I know it’s a “ride” not a “race,” but I can’t help myself, I’m a bit competitive.  I have been working pretty hard, but once the ride is over, I’ll back off the training again.  Maybe its age, but I’m a firm believer that you need time to rest and recover after a hard physical effort. Your mind and body need to refuel and regain strength.

Similarly, I believe you periodically need time off from work to recharge your battery.  I recently went to Door County for a long weekend.  The weather was great and I had a fantastic time with my family.  While the trip was very relaxing, I wasn’t totally disconnected from work as I kept up on my voicemail and email. This is not always the case - once a year I totally disconnect from everything at work. In fact, so does every one of our employees.  We have a policy where everyone’s network access is blocked for five consecutive business days for internal control purposes.  This week of lockout is a totally different level of rest and recovery.

A company which I am on the board of, with much trepidation, tried this type of lockout for a group of employees last year for similar internal control reasons.  Employees went into it reluctantly, but ended up having such a positive experience, that they rolled it out to their entire staff.

When people are completely disconnected for a full week as opposed to just a day or two at a time, it forces others to cover for them.  This cross training is great for developing depth, as well as individual development.  Twice I’ve taken a two week vacation. You would think work would really pile up, but surprisingly it is much less than would be expected. When you are gone that long, people don’t leave you messages and wait until you are back for an answer, they figure out another way to deal with the issue.

A local company I know of takes it even further.  They have required sabbaticals of one to three months for a certain group of employees.  Not only does this force cross training, but because this is a personal services firm, it forces the creation of real depth in client relationships which is also very good for the company.  Ideally, when the employee comes back from their sabbatical, they don’t take everything back which allows them, and the folks who filled in for them, to grow and develop.  What a great thing for both the employees and company.

Going back to biking and working out, did you know that when you exercise, the most muscle growth occurs when you are sleeping? The recovery phase is critical to muscle growth and development.  The same holds true in business.  In order to perform at your peak (personally and professionally) and see continued development and improvement, you need to create a cycle of “work, rest, repeat.”