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The Great Reset: How Managers Use Their Holiday Downtime to Recharge

An office chair with a sign saying out of office.

​The week between Christmas and New Year's is traditionally a lax time in the workplace.

Some companies, like Amgen Inc., the Monsanto Co. and General Motors even allow the entire workforce the week off between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Time off is likely welcome after another tough year on the job, with the specter of COVID-19 and mandatory vaccines hanging over employees' heads.

Company leaders have personal lives, too, and many plan to use end-of-the-year idle time to recharge their batteries or prepare for the new year. Here's what some of them share about their coming holiday time off:

Danny Spiro, vice president of people operations at Zenefits, a human resource services firm in Phoenix. At Zenefits, many of the firm's customers are conducting critical end-of-year tasks around the holidays.

"As a result, we balance our staff's needs to take time off and be with family with our need to support our customers," Spiro said. "We do this through advance coordination and planning to ensure people have the time off they need while ensuring our customers can count on us for support."

When Spiro does take time off, he spends that time with family and friends first.

Spiro believes it's important for a career professional at any level to use time off to do what brings them joy. "For some, that may be to relax and unplug," he said. "For others, it may be to travel and discover new experiences. And still for others, it may be to immerse themselves with family and friends. It's a great time to reflect, recharge and reset for the new year.

"I really love the work that I do, so if I happen to think about work-related solutions or my creative juices start flowing, I go with it. If I'm working through the holidays, it's mostly just to cover important issues so my team and I can all enjoy as much personal time as possible. We dedicate time before and after the holiday seasons to reflect on our accomplishments and map out longer-term goals and strategies."

Don Adams, general manager at Regional Foundation Repair, a New York City-based construction and building repair company. "The end-of-year time off is great because you don't feel obliged to whisk your family away on a summer holiday," Adams said. "You can really get in some 'me time' and reflect on what you did that year. Time off leads to shifts in perspective, especially when you remove yourself from the business rush for a week or so."

Adams plans on using his downtime to do repairs around the house. "I'm somewhat of a serial home renovator, so this time of year I divide [time] between family and hobby," he said. "I'll be doing some renovations, repairs and home improvements, which are relaxing for me.

"And I'll definitely be turning off my mobile phone," he added.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, CEO at Mavens & Moguls, a marketing agency in Cambridge, Mass. Some business leaders use holiday free time to reflect on the past year and apply any lessons learned—or opportunities missed—toward the new year.

That's the case with Arnof-Fenn, whose agency will be open but very "informal" for the last week of 2021.

"To recharge at year-end, I always circle back by phone or e-mail with any client who during the past year didn't have enough budget to accomplish their wish list of projects with us," she said. "The goal is to see if any use-it-or-lose-it money turned up in the fourth quarter so we can allocate the funds to the project for the next year."

Arnof-Fenn will definitely carve out some nonbusiness time to herself, as well.

"Whether that means sleeping in and saying 'no' to an alarm clock, meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off your phone and computer, simple acts of letting yourself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts you can give yourself," she said. "You can fill a calendar to stay busy but what matters most is having an impact on people's lives, and that has nothing to do with volume of activity; it is about touching people in meaningful ways, which may mean being less busy and not more."

Amy Spurling, CEO at Compt, a Boston-based employee benefits firm that trains companies how to maximize workplace perks for employees. "My wife and I plan a trip away around the last week of the year, and this year we're heading to Rome, Italy, for the holiday," said Spurling, whose business will be open but operating informally.

"Since we have our planning for 2022 completed by that point, this is the perfect time to recharge and refresh before a busy start to the new year."

Spurling noted that because company leaders work in businesses with different demands and have their own unique family or friend situations, "recharging" will look different from person to person. But to the extent possible, she recommended, take "time to either recharge or think about something other than immediate business issues."

Brian O'Connell is a freelance writer based in Bucks County, Pa. A former Wall Street trader, he is the author of CNBC Creating Wealth (John Wiley & Sons, 2001) and The Career Survival Guide (McGraw-Hill, 2004).


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