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For companies looking to enhance engagement and improve employee culture, you need to consider implementing mandatory Thinking Days.
It’s simple, easy, and low cost, but carries enormous benefits.
Glassman Wealth Services first implemented “Thinking Days” more than six years ago (and wrote about it for Forbes back in 2012). It was originally inspired by Bill Gates, who goes off the grid twice a year for a “Think Week.”
A Think Week is a time to learn and recharge—similar to Stephen Covey’s concept of “Sharpening the Saw,” the 7th habit in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s is a chance for self-renewal, creating growth and allowing oneself to increase their capacity to tackle future challenges. The days are usually spent devouring books, magazines and videos, expanding your knowledge base while exposing yourself to different ideas and philosophies.
The Rules of a Thinking Day
How exactly do Thinking Days work? There are three essential rules to make a Thinking Day successful.
An employee is not available to the office on their Thinking Day. That’s not to say they can’t go online—they just can’t check work emails, and don’t take work calls. It’s important that others in the office respect a Thinking Day and don’t try to reach that employee. This is a day for their focus to be on learning and enrichment, and the distractions of the office can wait.
A Thinking Day is not a day off. It is not a vacation. Employees can’t do chores, and they can’t just sleep in and relax. There has to be focus—whether it be business development, personal career goals, or finding new tools to help the firm. This is a day of learning, growth, and development.
Be ready to share
When we first implemented Thinking Days, we had a goal of sharing inspiring and thought provoking videos. Ted.com was the main resource, and each member of the team brought back one video to share. An entire afternoon was dedicated to 10 keynote addresses, followed by in-depth discussion. Not only did this give every employee the benefits of hearing from world class speakers, but it gave a deeper insight into the team. It gives a glimpse into what different employees value, and what inspires and motivates them. By bringing the insights from a Thinking Day back into the office for discussion, we are able to directly apply these to our work and firm culture.
The other specifics of Thinking Days are up to the company. I recommend implementing them quarterly, and giving every member of the team the opportunity to take one. It’s also important to be purposeful with Thinking Days. They are scheduled and planned ahead of time, allowing employees to mentally prepare for the day. There can even be themes for certain Thinking Days, such as dedicating one to team cohesion or marketing strategy.
The Benefit of a Thinking Day
By being purposeful with Thinking Days, my team has been able to cultivate new ideas and inspirations that may have been difficult, if not impossible to stumble-upon during the day-to-day affairs of the office. Not only that, but by giving people the time, and permission, to explore their interests and express their creativity, we have developed a culture of employees who feel valued and are enthusiastic to share their ideas.
- Exposure to a wealth of knowledge
- Team members who feel valued
- Insight into personal interests and passions
- Improved team cohesion
- A chance to “Sharpen the Saw”
- Space to step back and look at the bigger picture
- A chance to learn some really cool stuff
The benefits and returns gained from Thinking Days are by far worth the investment.