Can you imagine being paid to take a day to yourself? A day of salon and spa treatments, hiking, reading and relaxing at the beach—doing whatever it is that brings you joy and makes you feel alive? Employees at Strategic Media, Inc. can.
That is exactly what CEO Jeff Small requires of his employees on their annual “Me Day,” a paid day off where each staff member spends a workday to themselves—and only themselves. But there are rules attached: no chores, no errands, and no work allowed. If it sounds like an employee’s dream, it is.
Every company has its perks—or so we hope! But unlike other employers who focus exclusively on tangible fringe benefits, Small also sees the payoff in providing intangible perks. He has been sponsoring company “Me Days” for three years and believes that a mandated day of self-care may help employees prioritize what is truly important to them.
“Over the years I realized that very few people successfully find time for themselves,” Small said. “Life is busy, and rightfully so. We don’t want to miss things with our families or friends, so there is little time to do the things that make us happy. I wanted to give everyone on the team a day to truly enjoy for themselves, without the normal daily stresses. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to all of our employees that time alone with reduced stress is incredibly refreshing. It is a wonderful reminder of how important self-care is to our well-being.”
As busy employees know, stepping away from daily obligations to focus solely on self-care is not always an easy task. Client Services Hilary Randall described the difficulty we face in taking time for ourselves like this: “It’s like Newton’s First Law, an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted on by an external force. It can be easy to approach life the same way. We all get so busy that we need something to stop us so we can rest and recharge.”
At SMI, Small is that force. He finds pleasure in enabling his employees to enjoy time out of the office without the distractions and stresses of their daily routine.
And with a company booming with new parents (seven babies in the last two years), the need for some quality “me” time is especially pronounced. It is not uncommon for new parents to become estranged from the concept of self. New parents are constantly multitasking, switching between their own needs and the baby’s—and the baby’s needs always come first! Putting yourself first isn’t an option…unless you have a “Me Day”.
Randall, a new mother, spent her “Me Day” getting a massage and reading at the beach. She said, “We all need to recharge regardless of whether we have kids or not. However, after having my son in March I hadn’t taken any time for myself. I did not realize the toll it had taken on me until my “Me Day” this year. For the first time in months I slowed down to relax, recharge, and re-center myself.”
Here are some things SMI employees had to say about their “Me Day” experiences:
“The ‘Me Day’ gives such a sense of gratitude to your employer! So many times during the day I thought, ‘How lucky am I to get to work for a company that offers this?’”
-Emily Cashman, Client Services Assistant
“I spent the day taking pictures and exploring around this new state I live in. I must have walked 10+ miles up and down paths and beaches… [I]t was a day to focus on me and what I wanted to do without dealing with my daily responsibilities of being an employee, student, wife, and dog mom. I even came home to a glass of wine and a hot bubble bath!”
-Emily Morris, Accounting Assistant
“I enjoyed a 90-minute session at Float Harder, where you float in a warm-water pod that is filled with 1,000 pounds of Epsom Salt. I ended up shutting off the light to enhance the effect and make it a true sensory-deprivation experience.
It was a chance to fully unplug from the outside world and relax in a very unique environment. The body feels totally weightless, freeing the mind from all physical distractions and allowing you to dive into a deeper meditative state… [I realized] that doing nothing at all—truly nothing—is equally as challenging as it is rewarding, particularly in today’s technology-centric world where we tend to be overstimulated on a daily basis.”
-Alex Foster, Media Analyst
The “Me Day” benefits to the company may be indirect, but they can certainly be ascertained by resounding appreciation in the office. At SMI, promoting a healthy work environment starts with allowing space for personal time and introspection.
“Our own personal health, both physical and mental, is paramount to a happy life,” said Morris. “We are such ambitious creatures by nature that we often forget to stop and breathe and do things for ourselves. We should work to live, not live to work. It’s absolutely okay to be selfish on occasion and turn the spotlight onto yourself and your happiness.”
When we take time out for ourselves, we realize that there are certain things that are import to our overall sense of well-being. Hobbies are important. Nurturing our creativity is important. Establishing our own challenges beyond those imposed by life is important. When we slow down the clock and stop wishing time away, we come to appreciate what we have while deepening our understanding of what we want.
When asked why he implements company “Me Days,” Small said, “I think the biggest intangible benefit for most of us is realizing the things that we really enjoy doing. I hope as a result of taking a ‘Me Day’ my employees can prioritize activities they truly appreciate, even if it’s an hour a month that they didn’t take for themselves in the past.”
By giving ourselves time and space to reflect, we can clarify our goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. Pursuing change in our lives takes work, and that work begins with introspection—something we arrive at easily when we allow ourselves the requisite self-care of a “Me Day”.