Capitalism is deeply extractive, and will continue to convert our labour into profit until there’s nothing left of us. Despite what the constant state of overwork is doing to our minds and bodies, to our land and natural resources, there’s no slowing down—our existence is viewed wholly as a means of production. White, colonial ideologies of work and working continue the cycle of burnout, wage gaps, discrimination, and oppression which can be seen in countless organizations and workplaces. However, there has been a rise in human-centered approaches that attempt to rebalance traditional structures that have long benefited white, able-bodied, neurotypical men. By consciously pursuing opportunities to embed Rest into organizational practice and policy, we can begin to give back what has been extracted, stolen, and inequitably exchanged. Here are just a few strategies for organizations to create more equitable, sustainable, and healthy environments for all workers.
1. Operate From a Place of Trust
Capitalism, which thrives on the idea of scarcity, would have us believe that people will abuse and take advantage of progressive policies—that mechanisms of control are more effective than trust.
But that’s so far from the truth! Organizations that actively resist urgency culture though human-centered design are fostering cultures of reciprocity. Rest is not an individual practice, but a collective and conscious resistance of capitalist ideologies of productivity.
Employers need to be proactive in combating urgency culture with practices that give people permission to slow down. When organizations create and implement people-centered policies that respect and value their employees, it creates more equitable and just spaces—particularly for disabled, racialized people, women, and newcomers.
2. Support Remote Work
Strict in-office policies disproportionately affect those with intersecting identities of oppression. Remote work has become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve seen the benefits of working from home—increasing access for disabled and neurodiverse people, avoiding micro-aggressions at the office, saving time and money commuting, cutting down on carbon emissions, supporting single households, supporting those who care for children or others, connecting socially, and increasing work-life balance.
Not all jobs can be completed from home, but when possible, organizations should adopt policies that enable remote work. To be inclusive, work from home options should include different cities, time zones, and even countries. With the autonomy and trust to work elsewhere, the flexibility promotes Rest as people can connect with family, not rush to return home after time away, more easily make appointments, and work more sustainably.
3. Offer Immediate Access to Health Benefits
“Extended health benefits are offered after a probation period.”
How many people have had the experience of worrying about how to afford expensive treatments, services, and accessibility tools when taking or debating a new job offer?
Employment probationary periods, some lasting up to nine months, are unnecessarily difficult for those who require health and dental care, medication, and wellness supports. Physical and psychological needs don’t go on pause, and it’s callous to accept labour and work during a probation period while simultaneously not acknowledging an employee’s wellness needs.
An approach that prioritizes reciprocity and Rest would provide immediate access to extended health benefits upon starting at an organization.
4. Rethink Vacation Leave
As a fundamental function, capitalism creates scarcity where none otherwise exists and rewards individualism—you earn time off the longer you work at an organization, the further along in your career you are, the more senior you are in an organization, and the greater your labour is valued by capitalist systems. Colonial ideas of who is worthy of Rest are reinforced through organizational policies with tiered and widely varied vacation packages.
Most organizations don’t provide the same vacation benefits they do to more senior workers: compensation packages reward seniority and longstanding service in an organization, without considering that psychologically and culturally unsafe workplaces often force out people from equity-deserving communities, who are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and entry-level positions.
The chronic overlooking of racialized, disabled, queer women, and gender diverse people for promotions and leadership positions keep people from accessing equal opportunities to Rest. A more human-centered leave policy is a flat vacation rate across the organization, where everyone has the same amount of time off whether they’re the Executive Director or just newly hired.
For example, Evenings & Weekends Consulting provides all staff with four weeks of vacation leave, two weeks during a winter holiday shut down, and a weeklong March break—all paid. Another example is unlimited vacation, where employees are free to take paid time off without restrictions on the days allotted annually.
If everyone’s ability to connect with Rest was prioritized, how much happier would we be? How much more impactful would our work be when we show up feeling rested, valued, and committed to the organization?
5. Explore a Reduced-Hour Work Week
Capitalism has forced us into a machine-like pace with limited time to rest. The system is so invested in controlling and monopolizing our energy, that alarming levels of burnout and collapsing labour markets aren’t enough of an incentive for rest.
Despite the great strides in technology and digital systems simplifying our work, the 40-hour work week that was popularized nearly 100 years ago, hasn’t been widely challenged in practice.
Reduced-hour work weeks can show up in different ways: some organizations opt for a four-day work week (working eight hours for four days) or working shorter days Monday through Friday. Some organizations are on the same schedule, while others leave it to teams and departments to determine needs or to ensure full-time services throughout the traditional work week.
Combating the urgent pace of capitalism looks like working less without reducing pay. If we’re prioritizing Rest, the idea isn’t to maintain a 40 hour work week in fewer days (i.e. working 10 hours for four days) or to squeeze the same amount of work into a shorter time period. Organizations need to be intentional and transparent about slowing down, managing workloads, and what activities they take on. A reduced-hour work week prioritizes impact over perceived production and honours our humanity, thus allowing more time to Rest while earning the same wage.
6. Offer Additional Paid Time Off
With many provinces still in an ongoing fight for more paid sick days per year, organizations that value Rest can make an effort through additional, flexible time off. Sick days should not only include personal physiological ailments, but mental health and caring for family and chosen family members. Some organizations also have a menstrual policy to provide paid time off outside of sick days for those who menstruate (Bakau Consulting offers a powerful read on how capitalism has intensified menstrual inequity).
Some employers provide an additional amount of paid days off to support culturally significant events, to attend appointments, and to celebrate non-Christian holidays. When viewing policies with an equity-lens, organizations should also examine their bereavement leave, which often doesn’t consider “chosen” family, travel requirements for newcomers, pregnancy loss, and many other types of grief.
Policies should be inclusive of those outside of nuclear families, and paid time off shouldn’t have stringent requirements like doctor’s notes or letters from other authority figures. Organizational practices should encourage trust without staff feeling the need to disclose and prove their trauma, ailments, symptoms, or circumstances.
7. Provide a Living Wage
I was just going to write, “That’s it. That’s the bullet point.” But this is still not common practice in the nonprofit sector!
The sector is notorious for creating environments where people have to work multiple jobs, make difficult sacrifices, and contend with burnout. As another layer of complexity, the exponentially increasing cost of living is wreaking havoc on our Rest. Exhaustion and burnout can spiral into a plethora of acute and chronic issues, as we carry our stress and trauma in our bodies. It’s expensive to be in a Rest deficit, from both a financial and spiritual perspective.
Even with the implementation of all the above policies, the absence of a living wage is exploitative and violent. Providing a livable wage is an important contributor to Rest.
Lydia Phillip (she/her)
A published writer and researcher, Lydia has been purposeful about building a communications career where storytelling, advocacy, and education meets social impact. She has been recognized nationally for her leadership, anti-racist initiatives, and her work towards gender equality. Lydia is passionate about using her voice to inspire new ways of being together, to disrupt oppressive colonial systems, and to help create a just future. Lydia has the privilege of living on the land near water in Mi’kma’ki, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw People.
Visit Lydia on LinkedIn.
To learn more about urgency culture, read Lydia’s original blog post and two previous posts with Evenings & Weekends.