Rest At Work: Five Ways Resolve Philly Encourages Our Team To Rest

Rasheed Ajamu
A Philly "jawn" pillow, and two yellow pillows on a blue couch.

As a culture that is constantly on the go, many of us assume that rest is something we have to earn.

The pandemic has brought immense changes, and the consequences have been overwhelmingly negative. However, there have been some positive outcomes. This pandemic has allowed us to reflect on the importance of taking breaks and how our society prioritizes urgency over rest. It's a crucial aspect we must consider as we move forward and adjust our priorities.

While conversations about rest have been happening for decades, in small pockets, Black feminist scholars like Tricia Hersey (The Nap Ministry Bishop) and Octavia Raheem have moved this conversation to the forefront. From their respective works, many folks have been able to think critically about how they are resting, what has been keeping them from it, and what rest means.

As a culture that is constantly on the go, many of us assume that rest is something we have to earn. It’s something we believe is ours only after we’ve finished our tasks for “the grind.” As stated in Hersey’s book, “Rest Is Resistance,” she says, “Rest is not a luxury, a privilege, or a bonus we must wait for once we are burned out… Rest is not a privilege because our bodies are still our own, no matter what the current systems teach us.” 

Many also assume rest is sleep; it is more than that. It can be reading, enjoying a walk in the park, or even a yoga session. It’s where you find the space to enjoy, renew, and restore yourself. Whatever way that manifests itself is up to you. As I frame it, rest is a birthright and rejection of grind culture, which, informed by capitalism, tells people they should constantly be working and creates a false sense of steady urgency. In response to grind culture, rest is how we create community healing, connection, and care of ourselves.

Rest became a popular theme in Germantown, where I do most of my reporting work for the Germantown Info Hub, in November 2022, when the KDD Theatre hosted Philadelphia Contemporary’s “Supine Horizons” exhibition. The exhibit framed rest as an art form for renewal, where people were encouraged to schedule rest as they would any other appointment or meeting throughout their day.

After reporting on the exhibit, I began thinking about my rest practices and how Resolve Philly’s work culture encourages rest amongst its employees. I’ve identified five significant elements during my time with Resolve that contributed to my well-being and how I can rest. 

They include:

  • Communicating “at-capacity”
  • Respecting away hours
  • Hybrid work model
  • Unlimited paid time off
  • Bi-annual breaks

Along with my own, I’ve added sentiments from some of my esteemed colleagues about how these five things create a better work environment.

Respecting away hours

While one would assume that away hours should be respected, it’s unfortunate that some, not all, jobs expect their employees to be available and bend some of their free time to benefit the workplace. This breach of respect can look many ways, even as simple as pinging someone to ask them a “quick question.”

Director of Practice Change at Resolve Philly, Aubrey Nagle, says she has felt that respecting away hours has been an issue in previous workplaces. She believes that respecting away hours is an essential part of rest for employees, as it reduces burnout and increases creativity for the employee, with the possibility of improving morale and retention in the workplace.

For Aubrey, respecting away hours has been most helpful when dealing with personal emergencies. She shares a little about our playful staff enforcement of away hours, saying, “Folks regularly call each other out for working when they’re supposed to be off for the day or sending late-night messages.”

She says she is grateful to have her time away respected. “It feels like I’m valued as a person and not just an employee,” she says. “My long-term success and health are important to the rest of the organization.”

Communicating “at capacity” needs – and having them respected

We’ve all held heavy workloads, which sometimes can be challenging to communicate with our team. In return, we add more tasks to our workload, sometimes completing those tasks during away hours and tiring ourselves out. One of the easiest ways to combat this is by simply sharing with our co-workers that we are at capacity.

But, just as respecting away hours, telling your team you are at capacity can sometimes be met with sentiments that suggest you may be falling behind on work or are failing to do your job. However, communicating this can only enhance the energy and time you put into the projects already on your plate, leading to a better output.

Two children sitting on the couch, one says, "We are at capacity"

Revenue Project Manager Madeleine Nasta agrees with my point of view and adds more reasoning, saying, “[communicating that she’s at capacity] allows me to prioritize quality work and fosters a loyal and caring environment. Discussing workload and capacity is also necessary when planning; knowing the reality of my or my team’s capacity helps ensure sustainability and mitigates potential problems.”

But sometimes communication is the first step. Your team/workplace should also be able to honor that, as mentioned above. Madeleine says while she has been able to communicate her capacity needs at former workplaces, there often needed to be real solutions to it. She says, “That usually led me to stop asking for help, and instead, I would be clear that I was at, or rather beyond, capacity and kept on working.”

Nasta shares that looking at her workload and even having strategy sessions with our teammates around needs and tasks has been super helpful as an action step before and after communicating you’re at capacity.

Hybrid Work Model

As mentioned in the introduction of this piece, the pandemic has changed our social landscape forever. One thing more workplaces are implementing is the hybrid working model, where employees receive a set amount of days to work in the office instead of an average 9-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For Resolve, we are expected in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and this was the case pre-pandemic.

As a reporter, this has been one of the most beneficial things to how I reset and decompress. It has taken the pressure off me to communicate while being out of the office to visit sites and interview folks and allows me to take moments to recharge my social battery without interruption.

Newer Resolve employee and Community Engagement Program Associate Natoya Brown says that the hybrid work style has been most helpful for her as a parent. “I was just telling my daughter that I can count on one hand how often my parents were able to pick me up from school,” she shares. “One of the benefits I appreciate the most about a hybrid work style is the ability to pick up my daughter from school and then come home and continue to work if needed.”

She says this is a lesson she wants to pass on to her daughter: "You can still be productive in a career without being confined by it.” She adds that a hybrid model is less about simply completing tasks from two different places and instead about the work's quality and how the workplace values its employees’ working styles.

She says, “It’s also about taking into consideration folks’ personal preferences as far as time management and placing more emphasis on quality, productive work and less on having someone sitting at a computer for a certain time.”

Natoya feels employee well-being and productivity are mutually inclusive, and hybrid work models are an intricate part.

Unlimited PTO

Everyone loves paid time off (PTO) because who doesn’t love being off and getting paid? Sadly, not all workplaces afford their employees the unlimited benefit to do so. But Resolve does!

Recent reports say that 72% of employees want flexible time off, which has led more companies to implement unlimited PTO policies.

Woman closing laptop, "Out of Office"

While admittedly, this is something that I still haven’t utilized as much as I could, I know the goodness that comes with it – and so does my co-worker and Product Manager, Lily Medosch. Before Resolve, Lily says she was working while in school. Having unlimited PTO could have benefitted her greatly, as she could have taken time off to study or have leisure time without worrying about being behind on bills (something I also relate to).

Lily says that while unlimited PTO can be a “mechanism to enable rest by giving people time and flexibility,” it’s also essential for life maintenance. Just as we have work tasks, we have tasks for our personal lives, and sometimes those tasks can be emotionally and mentally taxing. Lily shares the following:

"Life is precious, and self-preservation is key to keeping it all going. PTO isn’t always spent on vacation or time away, although that is nice! Unlimited PTO gets used to support obligations in your personal relationships with family and friends, enable healing during difficult times, and so much more. You can tackle life administrative tasks that often get pushed to the back burner, and by using PTO, you can do it at a more manageable pace that can help you to reduce overwhelm or stress and instead leave you feeling accomplished and in command of your life."

Unlimited PTO policies can also help build trust within organizations, reduce burnout, help workplaces save money, and more.

Bi-annual Breaks

While I’ve heard of organizations having the regular winter holiday season break (which may not even be a whole week), it’s seldom that I’ve ever heard of an organization having two leaves. At Resolve, we have a paid winter and summer break where the entire organization goes offline.

In addition to time off, Gene Sonn, the Director of Collaborations and my editor, strongly advocates for bi-annual breaks for the entire team. He believes that having leaves simultaneously across all teams reduces the pressure and expectations that may arise if individuals take their breaks at different times. 

Since there weren’t workplace-wide breaks at his former places of work, Gene would often take a vacation but would have to have more work output to do so. He says, “I would have to organize everything for others who would take over for me while away. So the days before being away would be twice as much work.”

Bi-yearly breaks promote less pressure for people to produce more to enjoy their off time. “The biggest thing is that with all of us on break, I don’t feel like I have to catch up upon return or plan ahead for others to do stuff for me while I’m away,” Gene shares. “It also means that we’re all getting ready to leave and easing back in at the same time. I find not only are the days off restful, but the first few days after are far easier.”

He also says that when everyone is off simultaneously, there’s no pressure to peek at any work waiting for you when you get back via email, Slack, or Asana.

As journalists, we both recognize how hard this may be for all media outlets producing daily news. Still, Gene says that there could be better ways to adapt company-wide policies and practices to promote company-wide rest. How this looks has to be up to the workplace and its employees.