The Rest is History

How can we normalize rest as a crucial part of our work?

Published on

Around 2 minutes to read

A few years ago, one of my SuperFriendly teams found themselves in a tough spot with a client. The brief was extra tough, so the team was spending a lot of late nights working without a lot to show for it. The client was starting to notice and getting understandably frustrated.

I met with the team leads to strategize. After weighing and discussing many different options, I suggested what I thought was the best course of action: apologize to the client for the lack of recent progress and inform them that we were giving the team a week-long break to recuperate and recharge so that we can come back with fresh ideas.

The team leads refused.

Useful School is a virtual pay-what-you-can design school for beginner and advanced creatives of color. Apply to their September-November classes on advanced product design, beginner product design, advanced branding, divestment & decolonization, or financial wellness by August 18th.

The worry was that giving the team a break would be the last straw that would make the client fire us.

So, we pushed through. We weren't able to resolve it over the next few weeks, and the client fired us anyway. We refunded 6-figures to them because they paid a good chunk of the project up front.

I’ll never know, but I do wonder from time to time what would have happened if the team had taken a break. I want our industry to normalize rest. We chase efficiency in every aspect of our work, but what do we do with the savings? We work more.

When I teach teams about design systems, the topic of measuring success always comes up. I’m quick to propose “most vacation days taken without a loss in quantity or quality of work“ as an important metric, and it always gets a chuckle. When I retort that I’m being serious, eyes shuffle awkwardly towards the floor. No team has ever taken me up on this.

Dezzie Garcia has recently been experimenting with ensuring multiple PTO days as part of planning and roadmapping rituals. Cameron Moll has long written about a minimum vacation policy as a better alternative to unlimited vacation, something I’ve implemented for myself off and on for years. I admire the innovation, and I’m honored to call both Dezzie and Cameron friends. But it saddens me that these kinds of actions are considered novel or unique.

What will it take to normalize rest as an important part of work? How have you normalized rest on your team? Reply and let me know.

Read Next

Extravagance as Savviness

Join 50,100+ subscribers to the weekly Dan Mall Teaches newsletter. I promise to keep my communication light and valuable!