The Benefits of Meaningful and Collective Rest


This holiday season, we are closing Groundworks New Mexico’s virtual office from December 12, 2022, through January 2, 2023 to collectively rest and rejuvenate. A three-week, office-wide closure for the holidays may seem radical, but it shouldn’t be. The term “radical rest” has cropped up a lot in the last few years…because the last few years have been A LOT. There are countless books, blogs, and articles discussing radical rest, while there are over 22 million views of #RadicalRest TikTok! So, what is it and why are we all in?

Radical rest is more of a philosophy than a clearly defined term. The notion of radical rest first arrived with Millennials during The Great Recession but became a movement with Black Lives Matter. Following the murder of George Floyd, was formed by T. Aisha Edwards “[t]o support the bravery and insistence of the BIPOC organizers and activists who were experiencing steady assaults of tear gas and violence from police, contracted security and white supremacist terrorists” through wellness to find healing justice. From there, the idea of radical rest has evolved to a belief that resting is integral to healing our bodies, our minds, our communities, and our environment. That by not resting, and not allowing others to rest, we are continuing to perpetuate social oppression through the decoupling of the self from our bodies, our minds, and the world around us.

In the social sector ecosystem, our work is steeped in serving, leading, and inspiring our communities, and yet we cannot do the work if we are not taking care of ourselves. In 2020, nonprofit employee turnover was at 19%, while the average across all industries was 12%. This figure does not even account for turnover during “The Great Resignation.” Worryingly, this appears to be a trend. According to Nonprofit HR, 45% of nonprofit employees will seek different employment in the next five years, with over half of those respondents stating that the new employment they seek will be outside of the nonprofit arena. While the study does not explain the cause of this exodus, we know that there is a high level of burnout in our sector. Some of the known causes of burnout in our sector are being emotionally invested in the work, receiving lower pay and fewer benefits than often found in the private sector, and small staffs which leads to many employees having to wear multiple hats.

To prevent burnout, we need to incorporate meaningful rest into our workplace practices and policies. Meaningful rest is an infrastructure with boundaries around work, emphasis on physical and mental health, and space to thrive, explore, and find the quiet. During Groundworks’ Inaugural Annual Conference this past November, we held a learning circle on “Workplace Wellness in Our Social Sector.” Session leaders and participants shared ways they are incorporating rest, rejuvenation, and inspired workplace benefits to create more sustainable work environments. The ideas shared included encouraging all three types of rest: passive, mindful, and active. Passive rest is where we just take time to “chill out”. Participating in mindful rest through practices such as meditation or breathwork. The third type of rest is more active in that it involves a physical way to rejuvenate. This could be anything from knitting to yoga or going for a nature walk. The science behind rest shows that our thinking improves, we are more creative, we are healthier and less susceptible to illness and disease.

The collective rest we will be engaging in this holiday season is novel for us as an organization. The Groundworks staff has been going at a strong pace all year and we desperately needed a good rest. The benefit of collective rest through an office closure is that no one will have to miss a meeting, email, or news. Knowing that we are not missing out on anything allows for us to truly rest and remove ourselves from worry. Collective rest is not without its challenges. It takes a lot of preparation to close an office. We hope to learn from this experience and find ways to smoothly implement planned, collective breaks throughout the year. This collective rest is one of our initial steps to improve our work environment. Our organizational New Year’s resolution is to continue to improve workplace wellness and to improve the benefits available for our amazing staff. The Groundworks team hopes that you and your organizations will join us in the practice of rest and rejuvenation. We wish you happy holidays and look forward to connecting with you in the New Year.

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